The potential of New England Patriots’ running back Sony Michael has never been in question. However, his injury history, back to his days at Georgia (where he experienced shoulder, ankle and knee injuries) has always been of concern.
With the 2020 NFL season nearing its advent, Michel’s health may once again be a cause for apprehension in New England.
According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Michel underwent foot surgery” in May. The procedure was described as “minor” and “maintenance-based,” designed to alleviate some of Michel’s recent discomfort.
The 25 year-old former first rounder from the University of Georgia is heading into his third NFL season. His first two with the Patriots have been met with varying degrees of success. Michel enjoyed both accolades and spoils during his rookie campaign in 2018. He set a rookie postseason rushing record by scoring six touchdowns in three games. He scored the only touchdown in Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams, carrying 18 times for a game-leading 94 yards. As such, Michel was a integral part of delivering a sixth Super Bowl championship to Foxboro. While his 2019 was not as productive, he still produced 912 yards rushing, with seven touchdowns.
Despite his impressive resume, a cloud of questionable durability has followed Michel throughout his career. Dating back to 2011, Michel suffered a torn ACL as a high school sophomore. A broken shoulder blade cost him 4 games in 2014 at Georgia, with an ankle sprain claiming another. He also experienced a forearm fracture in the summer, and both ankle and knee sprains in 2017. Thus far, his NFL career has yielded more good health than not. Michel has only missed three games with the Patriots. However, he has dealt with multiple knee injuries throughout his short-lived NFL career. Michel had a procedure in early August of 2018 to have fluid drained from his knee. He returned on August 27 but missed the season opener. Michel also missed 2 games during the month of October with a left knee injury.
Next Man Up?
With the departure of Tom Brady, the Patriots are expected to rely heavily on the running game for productivity on offense. As such, New England is hoping that a healthy Sony Michel will be a key component to that strategy. Still, the Pats are set to begin training camp in late July. Per Reiss’ report, Michel’s recovery time is still up in the air. His progress will determine his availability. There is still a tangible possibility that Michel may be forced to begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) with even the slightest setback in his recovery.
At present, New England’s running back depth consists of Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris and Brandon Bolden. If Michel is healthy, he is likely to be a productive feature back in the New England offense. However, it might be smart to keep a sharp eye on Harris; especially if Michel is expected to miss any significant time. The Alabama product was drafted in the third round last season. Mostly by design, he rarely saw the field. Yet, this could be his opportunity to make a significant contribution to the Patriots’ offense. Also, one might expect veteran such as White, Bolden and Burkhead to accept larger roles, as well.
New England’s ‘silver lining’ is that their running back corps is extremely deep and could withstand the loss of a player of Michel’s caliber. Still, that is likely a compromise they would rather not make. Sony Michel’s health will be crucial to the Pats’ success this season. Therefore, his rehabilitation and recovery will be closely monitored by all in Patriots Nation.
-Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and Columnist for Full Press Coverage. He covers the New England Patriots and provides NFL editorial content. He is also the host of the Locked On Patriots podcast. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC