Patriots: What does Sony Michel’s surprise appearance at practice mean?

Patriots RB Sony Michel (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
Patriots RB Sony Michel (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images) /

Sony Michel, who the Patriots placed on the PUP list, appeared at Wednesday’s practice.

We just got done hyping up Damien Harris for impressing the coaching staff at New England Patriots training camp, and then we were hit with news that Sony Michel unexpectedly returned to the practice field on Wednesday.

What does this all mean?

Well, for starters, it indicates Michel is farther along in his rehab process from offseason foot surgery (and his ankle/knee injuries) that many likely imagined. It was initially believed he could miss the first half of the 2020 NFL season, which is why Harris’ emergence all of a sudden became so important.

Here’s some more insight from NESN’s Doug Kyed:

"“Michel was in full uniform as the Patriots took the practice field in shells and shorts Wednesday morning. This is the first time Michel has been spotted this summer, and if he practices, he’ll be required to be activated off of the PUP list. Michel went through individual drills early in Wednesday’s practice.”"

Individual drills don’t count as practice, so once he starts getting reps with the offense, that’ll signal his activation from the PUP list.

Then again, if the Patriots feel Harris, James White and Rex Burkhead can carry the load for the first six weeks of the season, it’s likely they don’t rush Michel back, especially when you consider all the injuries he battled through in 2019.

That caused him to take a major step back after a tremendous rookie campaign. In 2018, across just 13 games (eight starts), Michel logged 931 yards on the ground (4.5 YPC) and six touchdowns. He helped the team to a Super Bowl victory that year, adding 336 yards on the ground and six touchdowns in three postseason contests.

But his 2019 was bad. Perhaps it was symptom of the entire offense taking a step back (plus his injuries), but in 16 games (14 starts), Michel managed just 912 yards on the ground (3.7 YPC) and seven touchdowns before the team was bounced in the Wild Card round.

When Michel is healthy and running downhill, he’s unquestionably the top rusher in the Patriots’ backfield. He only needed 13 games in his rookie season to prove that. But now that the team’s offense has gotten a bit more dynamic with Cam Newton under center and Mohamed Sanu hopefully getting acclimated after a poor 2019, Michel’s arrival can maybe wait.

Nonetheless, his presence at training camp is a welcomed sight and Pats fans should be encouraged by his progress.