Patriots Can Afford To Be Patient With Malcolm Mitchell In Return From IR

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New England Patriots wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell

Photo via Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports Images

Malcolm Mitchell returned to practice last week, but it remains to be seen when the New England Patriots wide receiver will be ready to rejoin the active roster.

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels addressed Mitchell’s status Monday in a conference call, calling the wideout’s transition from injured reserve a “long process.”

“It’s always good to get our guys back out there,” McDaniels said. “I mean, we enjoy coaching them. Malcolm’s a great kid and worked hard and tried to get himself back on the field. I’m happy for him that he’s been able to do that. That process is a long process. There’s a lot of things that will be involved with that, I’m sure, most importantly his health and ability to do the things that we would need him to do on the field. Those decisions are certainly going to be made by Coach (Bill) Belichick and our medical people.”

The Patriots chose not to activate Mitchell before Sunday’s regular-season finale against the New York Jets, which New England won 26-6 a Gillette Stadium. Teams have 21 days to move a player from IR to the 53-man roster after he begins practicing, meaning the Patriots have until Jan. 17 (the Wednesday before the AFC Championship Game) to make a final decision on the second-year pro.

“It was good to have him out there (at practice),” McDaniels said. “Not sure what that will lead to, as with every player coming back from some type of an injury or rehab. You’ve just got to let it take its course and do the best you can working with him, and then if and when that time comes when he’s ready and can help us and can contribute, I’m sure that that will happen. But right now, it’s just good to have him out there and good for him to be there and be coached and work with his guys.”

Mitchell played in 14 regular-season games as a Patriots rookie last season, finishing with 32 receptions for 401 yards and four touchdowns. He had one of the best games of his young career in Super Bowl LI, catching six passes on seven targets for 70 yards in New England’s historic win over the Atlanta Falcons.

The Patriots enter the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the AFC, granting them a bye this weekend. They’ll host the Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans or Buffalo Bills in the divisional round next Saturday night and would not need to activate Mitchell until the day before that game.

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