Gunner Olszewski’s inspiring rookie season likely has come to an end.
The New England Patriots are expected to place Olszewski on injured reserve this week in order to activate left tackle Isaiah Wynn, according to report Tuesday from ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss.
Barring an unexpected change, the Patriots plan to place WR/PR Gunner Olszewski (ankle/hamstring) on injured reserve, per a source. That would open a roster spot for the return of LT Isaiah Wynn.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) November 19, 2019
Olszewski, an undrafted rookie out of Bemidji State, ranks fifth in the NFL in punt return average (9.0 yards per return) but missed New England’s last two games with ankle and hamstring injuries.
The converted Division II cornerback also has played 79 snaps at wide receiver this season — including 50 in a Week 6 win over the New York Giants — but he currently sits at the bottom of a depth chart that includes Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers and the recently activated N’Keal Harry.
Moving Olszewski to IR also will allow him to remain with the team and continue his development.
Sanu has handled punt-returning duties in Olszewski’s absence but hasn’t looked totally comfortable in that role — understandable considering the veteran receiver never had returned an NFL punt before this season. Meyers and Harry practiced returning punts before Sunday’s 17-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles and in training camp but have yet to do so in a game setting.
Edelman had been the Patriots’ primary punt returner for much of the last decade, but they’ve shown an unwillingness to use the 33-year-old in that role this season, perhaps to limit his injury risk.
Wynn is expected to reclaim his starting spot at left tackle Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, moving fill-in Marshall Newhouse to the bench. Newhouse started the last eight games as Tom Brady’s blindside protector while Wynn recovered from the toe injury he suffered in Week 2.