Stephon Gilmore has not participated in a game or practice since last December.
The New England Patriots now must decide whether to extend the star cornerback’s absence by another month-and-a-half.
Gilmore, who is recovering from the partially torn quad that ended his 2020 campaign, entered Monday on the physically unable to perform list after missing all of training camp and the entire preseason.
If he’s removed from PUP ahead of Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET roster cutdown deadline, he’ll be eligible to play in Week 1. If not, he’ll be required to sit out at least the Patriots’ first six games, sidelining him until late October.
One day after New England closed out the preseason with a 22-20 win over the New York Giants, head coach Bill Belichick was asked whether the team has made a decision on their top cover man.
“We have a lot of roster decisions to make, and some of those are intertwined,” Belichick said Monday in a video conference. “Some of the rules have changed from what they have been in the past, so what we’ve done in a different year at a different point in time may or may not be relevant now. We’ll just take a look at everything and continue to evaluate Steph day by day, as we’ve done, and as he’s done, and work to get better.
“We have several players in a similar situation, and we’ll get the most up-to-date information we can and try and make the best decision we can for our football team.”
The rules Belichick was referring to likely were the injured reserve regulations. If a player is on his team’s initial 53-man roster, then is moved to IR, he can return after three games. Before 2020, these players had to miss at least eight games. The PUP rules, meanwhile, have not changed. (Quarterback Jarrett Stidham, linebacker Terez Hall and defensive tackle Byron Cowart also are on the Patriots’ PUP list.)
An early-season stint on IR is another potential option for Gilmore if the Patriots do not believe he’ll be fit to play in September. Gilmore also reportedly wants a new contract, as he’s set to make just $7 million in base salary this season, and still could be traded ahead of New England’s Sept. 12 season opener.
“We’ll just keep working through it every day,” Belichick said Monday on WEEI’s “Greg Hill Show” when asked about Gilmore’s status. “He’s been (at the stadium) the last two days and has continued to work hard on his rehab. We’ll check in today and see how that’s going — see what kind of progress we’re making and then go from there.
“I’d say it’s really pretty much like everything — follow it day by day and see how it goes. And based on the results of (Sunday) and how things are today and the general plan that we have, it’s either follow that plan or modify that plan a little bit based on the most recent information.”
Losing Gilmore for any period of time would be a major blow to New England’s revamped and reloaded defense. The Patriots made significant improvements to their front seven during the offseason and return most of their secondary, but they lack quality depth behind Gilmore, fellow starting cornerback J.C. Jackson and slot corner Jonathan Jones.
Veteran newcomer Jalen Mills was Gilmore’s top understudy this preseason, with 2019 second-round pick Joejuan Williams also seeing reps at outside corner with the first-team defense. The Patriots sought to bolster this unit last week by trading for Baltimore Ravens rookie Shaun Wade, who made his New England debut Sunday night. Wade’s arrival could push a player like Williams off the 53-man roster.