Already shorthanded at running back, the New England Patriots nearly lost another Friday night.

Late in the fourth quarter of New England’s 25-14 preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers, Jeremy Hill had to be helped off the field after being dragged down from behind by Panthers defensive end Sterling Bailey.

Bailey was penalized for an illegal horse collar tackle, and Hill suffered what appeared to be a lower leg injury.

That injury evidently was relatively minor, however. He was seen jogging up and down the sideline shortly after limping off the field, according to reporters on the scene at Bank of America Stadium, and later re-entered the game as part of the punt return team, though he did not play any additional offensive snaps

Hill, who underwent ankle surgery during the offseason, was the Patriots’ most productive ball-carrier during the first two weeks of the preseason, putting himself in line to earn a roster spot. He struggled against the Panthers, gaining just 25 yards on nine carries.

Patriots running backs Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead have yet to appear in a game this preseason. Both reportedly are dealing with knee injuries. Burkhead practiced in a limited capacity this week, while Michel has not been spotted on the practice field since Aug. 1.

Michel, Burkhead and James White are roster locks, and Brandon Bolden has a very strong chance of sticking around as a special teamer. Hill and Mike Gillislee likely are fighting for just one roster spot, with rookie Ralph Webb looking like a long shot after not seeing the field Friday night.

Gillislee finished with 10 carries for 35 yards and a touchdown against Carolina.

Thumbnail photo via Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports Images