Week 4 doesn't just mark a game against the Kansas City Chiefs for the New England Patriots. It also marks the first week in which four players are eligible to return from injured reserve.
Running back Damien Harris, wideout Gunner Olszewski, defensive tackle Beau Allen and offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste, who have been on injured reserve since before New England's season opener against the Miami Dolphins, are eligible to return to game action this week.
However, as head coach Bill Belichick noted on Wednesday, there's a process those players to to go through before they are officially activated from injured reserve.
"The first step would be to practice a player that’s on injured reserve and then whether he would be active or not would depend on what happened during the course of the week," Belichick said during a video conference call with the media. "Sometimes, those guys, they’re not ready to play as soon as they start practicing. They need another week or two.
"So, if we do that, it would just be based on that player’s individual situation and how we can evaluate the guy during the time that we have to look at him, whether that’s a week, two weeks, three weeks, whatever it is. So, the first step would be to start him at practice and that starts the clock running on the activation process and then it becomes an evaluation process as we take it day by day."
Harris was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 7 after undergoing surgery on his pinkie finger. It was a disappointing turn of events for the second-year back, as he had a very strong training camp and stirred up speculation that he could very soon be New England's top ball carrier. His return will create an interesting situation in the Patriots' backfield, as they would then have five talented running backs on their roster.
Olszewski, who looked like one of the best receivers in Patriots camp this summer, was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 12 due to a foot injury. His return would be big news for a New England receiver room that has been struggling recently due to a lack of depth and their top wideouts (Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry) being banged over the first few weeks of the regular season.
Allen, who joined the team this offseason, wasn't on the field at all during training camp due to an undisclosed injury, and was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 12. Him returning would be a big help for a defensive tackle room that lack's depth. The team currently has just three players listed at defensive tackle on their depth chart: Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler and Byron Cowart.
Cajuste, who spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve, was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 10 due to a knee injury. Cajuste was competing this summer for New England's starting right tackle job, which is a job that was eventually won by veteran Jermaine Eluemunor. His return would add depth to an offensive line that just recently lost starting center David Andrews to injured reserve.
Keep an eye on reports about Patriots practice on Wednesday. Seeing any of the aforementioned players on the practice field is the first sign that they could be activated off injured reserve as early as this week.
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