FOXBORO (CBS) — New England’s stable of running backs are an extremely tight-knit group, so when the Patriots traded away Sony Michel on Wednesday, it wasn’t the sort of news anyone in the room wanted to hear.

The trade with the L.A. Rams made sense for New England, since running back was one of the team’s deepest positions on the roster and Michel was heading into the final year of his contract. And with Damien Harris and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson trending up, plus J.J. Taylor putting together a fantastic preseason, the Patriots opted to get something in return for Michel, acquired a potential fourth-round pick from the Rams.

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But just because it was a smart business move doesn’t mean it was a popular one among the other backs. Just ask James White, the veteran leader in the room. He was Michel’s teammate for the last three seasons, and is sad to see Sony go to Los Angeles.

“Definitely tough. That’s my guy. Being with him since his rookie year and helping him become the player he is today, he’s gotten better and better each year,” White told reporters following Wednesday’s joint practice with the New York Giants. “It’s tough to see him go, for sure. He’s a hard worker, tough guy, and definitely puts the team first.

“Definitely going to miss him,” White added. “Best of luck to him.”

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As a five-year veteran when Michel was a rookie, White made sure to provide plenty of leadership for the young back over the years. Both are from Florida, and developed a close bond.

“Us Florida guys we kind of gravitate towards each other. Just tried to take him under my wing a little bit and tried to help him be the best player and man on and off the field that he could be,” White explained. “Like I said, it’s tough to see him go for sure, but I am sure he will do great out there.”

Michel was an important piece to New England’s Super Bowl LIII over the Rams, running wild and finding the end zone six times throughout the postseason. He ran for over 900 yards in each of his first two seasons in the NFL and found the end zone a total of 13 times.

He had just one rushing score and 449 yards over nine games in 2020, missing time at the start of the season due to injury. That allowed Harris to take over the starting running back job, a role that the third-year back is taking into the 2021 season. With Stevenson also in the mix in 2021, Michel was the odd-man out in New England.

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Patriots players understand that it’s only business, but that doesn’t make the news of Wednesday’s trade any easier to digest.

CBSBoston.com Staff