Running back Damien Harris and wide receiver Gunner Olszewski will make their season debuts Monday night for the New England Patriots.
The Patriots activated Harris and Olszewski off injured reserve ahead of their rescheduled Week 4 matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Both sat out the first three games after suffering finger and foot injuries, respectively, late in training camp.
New England also reportedly placed running back Sony Michel (quad) and special teamer Cody Davis (rib) on IR. Both already had been ruled out for Monday’s game.
Harris, a 2019 third-round draft pick out of Alabama, played just 10 snaps as a rookie last season but was New England’s most impressive back this summer, pre-injury. He and Olszewski returned to practice last week.
“I think you need just to know that Damien is a doggone good runner,” Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears said in early August. “He?s a real good runner. He?s done a hell of a job improving his all-around game. When he came out of Bama, he was an excellent runner. He is an excellent runner. I think that?s what he?s going to show you when he gets a chance to play. I think you?re going to like what you see.”
With Michel, the team’s leading rusher, unavailable, the Patriots will carry a backfield of Rex Burkhead, James White, J.J. Taylor and Harris into Monday night. Michel’s injury is not considered season-ending, per to a report from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.
New England also will be without starting quarterback Cam Newton — arguably their most dangerous rushing threat — after he tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. Veteran Brian Hoyer is expected to start behind center for the Patriots, with Jarrett Stidham serving as his backup.
Olszewski, another camp standout, rejoins a receiving corps that features Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers and Isaiah Zuber. Olszewski also could take over punt-return duties from Byrd.
The Patriots promoted Zuber, an undrafted rookie, from the practice squad Monday as a COVID replacement. Zuber was temporarily elevated to the active roster for last week’s win over the Las Vegas Raiders.
Newton’s positive test prompted the NFL to move Patriots-Chiefs from Sunday afternoon to Monday night. Kickoff is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.