BOSTON (CBS) — With the 2017 season opener just a few days away, it’s still unclear who will be returning punts for the New England Patriots.
Cyrus Jones and Julian Edelman are both done for the season, leaving a big void on New England’s special teams. Bill Belichick has a handful of band aid options, but no one you’d really trust to handle those duties and the physical toll that goes with returning punts for an entire season.
Newcomer Phillip Dorsett is one option, though he hasn’t done it much since his sophomore year at Miami and has just two punt returns in his NFL career. Patrick Chung has volunteered his services, but like Dorsett, has just two punt returns over his eight-year career.
That leaves Danny Amendola as the prime candidate, at least to start the season come Thursday night against the Kansas City Chiefs. Amendola can certainly handle punts, returning 147 over his career, but he owns a lengthy injury history and has been hurt while returning punts in each of the last two seasons. Durability is the biggest question mark with Amendola, especially when you add punt returning duties with an expanded role in the offense due to Edelman’s absence.
But one thing that has been apparent over his four seasons in New England is that Amendola will run through a wall for Bill Belichick. Or, as he put it on Monday, “play on the highway.”
“Returning punts is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world,” Amendola told reporters at Gillette Stadium. “It’s awesome. It’s like playing on the highway, if you’ve never done that before.”
Of course, Amendola advised reporters not to go play in the highway — one of those “don’t try this at home” disclaimers.
But if Belichick gives him the nod on Thursday night, Amendola said he will be ready.
“Whatever the coaches ask me to do,” Amendola said. “Whatever my role is. I’ll be ready.”
Tune in to Thursday’s season opener on 98.5 The Sports Hub — the flagship station of the New England Patriots. Coverage begins at 5:30pm with Patriots Preview with kickoff set for 8:30pm. Tune in to three hours of postgame coverage following the game, and catch Patriots 5th Quarter on myTV38 to see Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s press conferences live!