Tom Brady and Rob Ninkovich returned to the New England Patriots on Monday after serving their respective four-game suspensions, but a few questions regarding their status still linger.
First and foremost: Since neither Brady nor Ninkovich counted toward the Patriots’ 53-man roster during the first four weeks of the season, when must the team remove two players to make room for them?
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked that question Monday morning in a conference call with reporters.
“I don’t have an exact answer for that right this second,” Belichick said. “Why don’t you call the league and ask them? I’m sure they have the answers.”
The Patriots can make room for the returning quarterback and defensive end by either releasing players or placing them on injured reserve. They might opt for the latter with quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who could undergo surgery on his injured right thumb, according to a report Sunday by NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.
Brady and Ninkovich were allowed to reenter Gillette Stadium and communicate with the Patriots’ coaching staff for the first time Monday after being barred from the premises for the past month. Both will be eligible to play Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
“It’s great to have Tom and Rob back, but I can’t tell you (how their presence will affect the team),” Belichick said. “I can’t answer the question. I haven’t seen it. It’d just be pure speculation. It’s good to have him back. I’m not going to speculate on what will and won’t happen going forward, because that’s all it will be is just speculation.”
The Patriots lost to the Buffalo Bills 16-0 on Sunday to fall to 3-1 on the season.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images