Can Patriots Rookies On Non-Football Injury/Illness Return This Season?

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While whittling their roster from 90 players down to 53, the New England Patriots placed three rookies on infrequently used reserve lists.

The Patriots placed offensive tackle and 2017 third-round pick Antonio Garcia on the non-football illness list and undrafted rookie offensive tackle Andrew Jelks and defensive end Keionta Davis on the non-football injury list on Sept. 2.

So, what’s the status of those players this season?

I wondered that Wednesday and reached out to one of those players in the Patriots’ locker room. He didn’t seem to know if he could return or not this season.

An NFL spokesperson told NESN.com that Garcia and Davis are out for the season, but Jelks can return via physically-unable to perform list rules.

Here’s the NFL’s wording on players returning from the PUP list: “Beginning on the sixth calendar day prior to a club’s seventh regular season game (including any bye week) clubs are permitted to begin practicing players on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform and Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness for a period not to exceed 21 days. Players may be activated during the 21-day practice period, or prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the day after the conclusion of the 21-day period, provided that no player may be activated to participate in a Week 6 game.”

Jelks has a five-week window to begin practicing that starts next week. After he begins practicing, the Patriots would have 21 days to activate him.

Garcia could have returned this season if the Patriots had included him on their initial 53-man roster then placed him on the non-football injury list. He also could have returned this season if he hadn’t participated in any training camp practices. He was still practicing with the team in the second week of August.

PatsPulpit.com’s Rich Hill raised a good point that Garcia might not be credited with an accrued season. That would mean he would become a restricted, not unrestricted, free agent when his four-year contract runs out after the 2020 season.

It’s unclear why Davis is out for the season. He never participated in a training camp practice but didn’t begin the summer with the Patriots. He had gone unsigned as an undrafted free agent until the Patriots signed him Aug. 11. It’s possible he can’t return this season because he didn’t begin training camp with the team.

The Patriots only have one player from their 2017 NFL Draft class on their 53-man roster. Defensive end Deatrich Wise, a fourth-round pick, has three sacks in five games. Defensive end Derek Rivers, a third-round pick, is out for the season with a torn ACL. Offensive tackle Conor McDermott, a sixth-round pick, was waived by the Patriots on Sept. 2 and claimed by the Buffalo Bills.

The Patriots have four undrafted free-agent rookies on their 53-man roster: tight end Jacob Hollister, offensive lineman Cole Croston, defensive tackle Adam Butler and linebacker Harvey Langi.

Thumbnail photo via Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports Images

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