New England Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham practiced Wednesday for the first time since spring minicamp.
Stidham, who underwent back surgery in late July, was back on the field for New England’s first practice of Week 7, starting the clock on his return from the physically unable to perform list.
Per NFL rules, the Patriots now have 21 days to add Stidham to their 53-man roster. If they do not activate him during that window, he would revert to the PUP list and be ineligible to play this season.
The same rules apply to defensive tackle Byron Cowart, a fellow 2019 Patriots draft pick who also returned to practice Wednesday. Stidham, Cowart and linebacker Terez Hall were required to sit out at least six games after beginning the season on PUP. Hall has yet to begin practicing.
Stidham’s situation will be an interesting one to monitor. He won’t challenge rookie Mac Jones for the starting job, but head coach Bill Belichick might view him as a more desirable backup option than veteran Brian Hoyer. Early last season, Belichick dropped Hoyer to third string and made Stidham Cam Newton’s primary backup after the former struggled during a short-notice Week 4 start in Kansas City.
The Patriots currently are operating with two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster (Jones and Hoyer) and one on their practice squad (Garrett Gilbert). If Stidham is deemed ready to play, would New England make him its QB2 and look to shift Hoyer back to the P-squad, where the 36-year-old began the season? Hoyer has been a valuable mentor for the 23-year-old Jones, so the team would be wise to keep him around in some capacity.
New England also could look to trade Stidham ahead of the Nov. 2 trade deadline, but he’s not likely to garner significant interest after his lengthy layoff.
Stidham, who continued to attend practices while on PUP, has appeared in eight games in his NFL career, all in relief. Playing behind Newton last season, he completed 22 of 44 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns with four interceptions and a quarterback rating of 54.7.
The Patriots would need to clear a roster spot to activate either Stidham or Cowart.