FOXBORO, Mass. — Head coach Bill Belichick was asked point blank if the New England Patriots expect wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell to return to game action this postseason.
His answer provided more questions than answers.
“I don’t know,” Belichick said.
“If that happens, I’ll let you know as soon as possible,” he continued sarcastically. “There won’t be a second delay.”
Let’s go through Mitchell’s timeline once more.
— After sitting out of spring practices, Mitchell began training camp as a full participant. When the pads came on, however, Mitchell was limited to individual, rather than team, drills.
— Mitchell returned to practice again but was limited leading up to Week 1 of the regular season. He was placed on injured reserve hours before the Patriots’ Week 1 matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs.
— Mitchell returned to practice and was designated to return off IR Dec. 27.
— Mitchell wasn’t activated for Week 17.
— Mitchell missed practice Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Because he’s not on the 53-man roster, he isn’t listed on the injury report.
Mitchell had a history of knee injuries in college, though it’s unclear what he’s been dealing with this season. If he isn’t practicing, then he might have suffered a setback and therefore would be unlikely to return this season.
If Mitchell is to play Saturday in the Patriots’ divisional-round matchup against the Tennessee Titans, New England would have to activate him by Friday at 4 p.m. The deadline to activate Mitchell this postseason is 4 p.m. next Wednesday, Jan. 17.
The Patriots have plenty of depth at wide receiver in Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Phillip Dorsett, Kenny Britt and Matthew Slater, but they could use Mitchell’s chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady. Mitchell was productive with Brady as a rookie in 2016.