Will Sony Michel Return This Week? Bill Belichick Shares Update On Patriots Back

Damien Harris has been excellent in Michel's absence

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Sony Michel soon could rejoin the New England Patriots’ crowded backfield.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday he hopes to activate the third-year running back off injured reserve ahead of Sunday’s matchup with the Houston Texans.

“We’ll see,” Belichick said when asked whether Michel will be activated this week. “Sony’s been working hard. He?s practiced the last two weeks, so we’ll see how things go this week. But hopefully.”

Michel, the Patriots’ primary ball-carrier since the start of the 2018 season, has missed six consecutive games with a quad injury and also spent time on the reserve/COVID-19 list last month. He has not played since Sept. 27 — when he torched the Las Vegas Raiders for 117 yards on just nine carries — but did return to practice two weeks ago.

Under NFL rules, the Patriots have until next Thursday to add Michel to the 53-man roster. If they don’t, he’d revert to IR and be ineligible to return this season.

In Michel’s absence, 2019 third-round draft pick Damien Harris has emerged as New England’s clear No. 1 rushing option, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and reaching 100 yards in three of his six games.

Having Michel back in the mix would provide valuable depth — the hard-charging Harris already has picked up ankle and chest injuries — but it’s difficult to envision him reclaiming his usual lead back role at this point. And with Rex Burkhead and James White both offering far more versatility and pass-catching prowess, Michel could be left off the gameday roster entirely once he’s activated.

?When you have good players at one position, I think that?s always a good thing for the team,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday. “So I?m looking forward to that. Sony?s always been a positive contributor to our offense, so we?ll figure out exactly how we want to handle all those things when everyone?s healthy and back.

“It starts, obviously, with practice and what we?re able to do there on the practice field, and try to go ahead and handle the planning for the game accordingly if that?s the case.”

McDaniels said increased internal competition will benefit all of New England’s running backs. That group also includes talented undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor, who flashed early in the season but has not seen the field since Week 3.

?The best thing for our team is competition,” McDaniels said. “I think we have a competitive group of backs. We have a competitive group in a lot of areas. So I think that only makes the players better. They work hard in practice, they compete to try to find roles during the course of the week for the game, and that?s always been a really important thing for our program and our offense.

“Compete in practice. It makes you better. It makes our team better. And whatever the roles are in the game, ultimately, we?ll try to figure that out as we go.”

Led by Harris, Burkhead, quarterback Cam Newton and a formidable offensive line, the Patriots have fielded one of the NFL’s top rushing attacks this season, ranking third in rushing yards per game, seventh in yards per carry, tied for third in rushing touchdowns and second in rush offense DVOA.

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