FOXBORO, Mass. — New England Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears has been impressed with Sony Michel’s diligence as the first-round draft pick works his way back from a knee injury that cost him most of training camp.
Michel left practice Aug. 1 and didn’t return to the field until Monday, missing 12 practices in the interim.
“We have walkthroughs,” Fears said. “We have meetings, film sessions. He’s involved in everything. He just physically can’t go out there and do everything in practice.”
Fears, whose tenure as a Patriots assistant predates Bill Belichick’s arrival in 2000, said Michel has been “excellent” to work with.
“I’m very happy with him,” Fears said. “He’s a very hard-working kid. He’s very conscious of what he has to get done, and he gets after it. He’s been great.”
Michel struggled some with ball security early in camp but showed great promise. He saw frequent reps with quarterback Tom Brady and the first-team offense before suffering his injury, which has prevented him from playing in any preseason games.
“(He’s been) just what we expected,” Fears said. “He was progressing well. I was really happy when we got the pads on and I got to see him run a little bit. It looks like he’s going to be what we expected him to be. Unfortunately, we didn’t get too long into it before he got hurt, but I expect him to come back ready to go.”
Michel was a highly prolific rusher at Georgia — averaging 7.9 yards per carry on 156 attempts last season with 16 touchdowns — and also has pass-catching potential, though he was used sparingly in that capacity in college. He’s been viewed a potential successor to Dion Lewis, but it remains unclear what his role will be early in the season as he makes up for lost practice time.
“Let’s put it this way: I liked what he was doing,” Fears said. “Before he got hurt, I liked what he was doing. I really did. He was doing the right things.”
Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White and fullback James Develin are locks to make the Patriots’ 53-man roster, and it’s likely special teamer Brandon Bolden will stick around, as well. Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee are vying for the final spot on that depth chart, with Hill appearing to have the edge through three preseason games.
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