BOSTON (CBS) — Through the first few weeks of training camp, Sony Michel has been sidelined as he recovers from offseason foot surgery. Now he’s back, and now things ought to get a little bit interesting.
Michel made his first appearance in full uniform on Wednesday, indicating that his time on the Physically Unable to Perform list is over.
Sony Michel sighting here at practice. pic.twitter.com/HC44D4bTlf
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) August 26, 2020
During Michel’s absence, second-year back Damien Harris has been getting a ton of reps with the offense — an indication that the 23-year-old was positioning himself to have an important role in 2020, after spending most of 2019 on the weekly inactive list. And if Michel remained out through training camp and potentially the first six weeks of the season, no such role for the now-veteran running back would be secure.
Now, assuming Michel is healthy in time for the season opener on Sept. 13, he’s likely to reclaim his job as the primary back. Last year, he led the team with 247 rushing attempts; James White ranked second, with 67.
Michel had an impressive rookie season in 2018, rushing for 1,267 yards and 12 touchdowns on 280 in 16 games (regular season and postseason combined). He dipped a bit in year two, seeing his average yards per carry drop from 4.5 in 2018 to 3.7 in 2019. He still contributed with 912 yards and seven touchdowns while playing in all 16 regular-season games.
Yet in Foxboro, jobs aren’t given. They are earned. And with Rex Burkhead and the aforementioned White providing the veteran experience and with Harris and J.J. Taylor providing a youthful infusion, and with some new offensive philosophies centering around Cam Newton, Michel may end up having to work to earn back the starting job.
That’s something the third-year back would not have been able to do while on PUP, and his appearance on Wednesday was his first step in working toward that goal.