FOXBORO, Mass. — The news that Sony Michel had avoided serious injury Sunday was a major break for the New England Patriots, who’d watched their rookie running back blossom into one of the NFL’s most effective ball-carriers over the previous three weeks.
Michel’s knee ailment is likely to sideline him for at least a game or two, however, so unless the Patriots want to roll the dice and enter their Monday night matchup against the Buffalo Bills with James White and Kenjon Barner as their only active running backs, they’ll need to make a roster move this week.
A trade or free agent signing always is a possibility — and the Patriots traditionally are one of the NFL’s most active teams ahead of the trade deadline, which this year is Oct. 30 — but their best solution might be to promote from within.
Enter Kenneth Farrow, one of 10 current members of the Patriots’ practice squad.
Farrow, who went undrafted out of Houston in 2016, has NFL experience. He appeared in 13 games and started two for the San Diego Chargers as a rookie, carrying the ball 60 times for 192 yards and catching 13 passes for 70 yards.
He sat out all of last season after undergoing ankle surgery, however, and was out of the league for more than four months before the Patriots signed him to suit up in their 2018 preseason finale against the New York Giants.
“It was a major surgery, so I was out for about seven months,” Farrow said after Wednesday’s Patriots practice. “That fourth preseason game was my first action back. I was training and staying ready for an opportunity when it came, and thankfully, they saw something in me to bring me back a couple more times, and here we are.”
Farrow didn’t make the Patriots’ initial 53-man roster after carrying the ball five times for 24 yards against the Giants, but the team re-signed him to the practice squad following Week 1. Eight days later, he again was released, only to return to the practice squad Oct. 9. Since then, he’s participated in every Patriots practice, mimicking opposing running backs while continuing to improve his own play.
“The fourth preseason game, I was just kind of thrown in there, so I definitely felt a little sloppy,” Farrow said. “But it’s been good getting these weeks of practice, and every day I go out there, I feel a lot better and better. I feel confident now. I feel good. I feel like I’m back to where I need to be to be able to go out there and contribute.”
Farrow is no behemoth at 5-foot-9, 219 pounds, but he offers more size than White (5-10, 205) or Barner (5-9, 195), neither of whom has been a productive between-the-tackles rusher at the NFL level. Farrow describes himself as a downhill runner who can “bring some physicality out there.” He also said his confidence never wavered despite his extended spell away from the game.
“No, because I know what I’m capable of when I’m healthy,” the 25-year-old said. “You just stay training, stay at it, and running back is one of those positions where it’s one of the most physical ones in the game, so there’s a lot of injuries throughout the league every week. So you just stay ready and stay at it.”
The Patriots know that fact all too well. They already have had two running backs — Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead — land on injured reserve, and Michel missed the entire preseason and Week 1 with a knee injury before going down again in Sunday’s win over the Chicago Bears.
Those unfortunate developments could create an opportunity for Farrow, who took handoffs from starting quarterback Tom Brady during Wednesday’s practice, to play in his first regular-season game since Christmas Eve 2016.
“That’s how it goes sometimes, man,” he said. “You’ve just got to stay ready. Being on IR for a whole year, then not having a call in OTAs or training camp or the majority of preseason — preparation is not when the moment happens. It’s way before that. So I’m just doing everything I can to be prepared.”
Thumbnail photo via Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports Images