FOXBORO — New England Patriots linebacker Jahlani Tavai's road to securing a roster spot for 2022 may have just hit a potential hazard.
During a red zone drill on Thursday, the 25-year-old was helped from the field by team trainers after sustaining an apparent non-contact leg injury. In the closing moments of an 11-on-11 drill, Tavai went to the ground, where he remained for several minutes; lying flat on his back at one point. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, linebackers coach Steve Belichick and offensive line coach Matt Patricia, checked in on Tavai before he was assisted to the medical tent, where he remained for the rest of practice.
Tavai was a second-round selection by the Lions in the 2019 NFL Draft from the University of Hawaii. He is a sizable linebacker with a plodding playing style that makes him a comfortable fit in New England. The 6-2, 246-pounder played in 13 games in 2021, logging 14 combined tackles and one fumble recovery. The former second-round draft selection has a history of playing under Patricia, who coached him in Detroit.
Tavai’s work ethic and versatility caught the eye of his teammates and coaches as the 2021 season progressed, including head coach Bill Belichick. During an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio earlier this week, Belichick said he expected Tavai to be a “big factor on all four downs.” He had been making a strong case for a roster spot, as a versatile linebacker that was also capable of shifting up and playing along the defensive line.
The Patriots are next scheduled to practice on Friday night, which will be held inside Gillette Stadium. The practice will be open to season-ticket holders and Foxboro, Massachusetts residents.