You could see some long-absent New England Patriots players back on the practice field this week.
The Patriots have played six games, meaning the players who began the season on the physically unable to perform now can return to the 53-man roster. Any PUP player who is activated this week would be eligible to play Sunday against the New York Jets.
The three New England players who can return this week are quarterback Jarrett Stidham, linebacker Terez Hall and defensive lineman Byron Cowart. Stidham underwent back surgery during training camp. Hall and Cowart have not taken the field since the start of spring practice.
It’s unclear whether the Patriots, who sit at 2-4 after losing to the Dallas Cowboys 35-29 in overtime on Sunday, plan to activate any of the three.
Stidham wouldn’t challenge rookie Mac Jones for the starting job, but the Patriots might view him as a better backup option than veteran Brian Hoyer. That likely would mean carrying three QBs, as Hoyer has been a valuable resource for Jones in his development. Stidham was New England’s top backup for much of last season, with Hoyer being demoted to third string after a rough Week 4 start in Kansas City. The 2019 fourth-round draft pick has been a frequent attendee at practice since his surgery.
Hall appeared in eight games last season and would be a depth option in a crowded linebacking corps. Cowart struggled as a full-time starter last season and would be behind Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, Christian Barmore and Carl Davis in the D-tackle rotation.
Players coming off PUP or injured reserve can practice for up to 21 days before being officially activated. If they are not added to the roster within that 21-day window, they would revert to the reserve list and be ineligible to play this season.
Had New England kept star cornerback Stephon Gilmore, he would have been eligible to return this week. But the Patriots traded him to the Carolina Panthers for a 2023 sixth-round draft pick despite lacking quality depth at the position. Gilmore is expected to begin practicing with the Panthers this week, according to a report from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.
The Patriots will host the New York Jets on Sunday.