The Patriots have lost a number of players in key positions, but can still activate a player off injured reserve to rejoin the team for the remainder of the season.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, “the only one who could potentially come back is Malcolm Mitchell.”
The team already used the first of its two “designations to return” on outside linebacker Shea McClellin, who started the season on IR with a concussion. McClellin returned to practice in October but was ruled out for season a few weeks later.
“He had a setback and was unable to return off IR,” Rapoport told Boston.com. “But because he started practicing, that burnt one of one their spots. The only other spot, to my understanding, would potentially be for Mitchell, and I don’t believe they’ve given up hope of that yet.”
Mitchell, who has yet to play a snap this season, was a limited participant for a week of practice before getting placed on IR with a knee issue. As a rookie, the 24-year-old caught 32 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Head coach Bill Belichick has not provided a firm indication of Mitchell’s status, but the wide receiver shared an Instagram with the caption, “Missing that feeling. I’m working. I’m coming,” at the end of November.
After Julian Edelman went down with a season-ending ACL tear during preseason, the injuries just kept coming for the Patriots.
At 10-3, the defending Super Bowl champions can clinch their ninth straight AFC East title by defeating the Steelers Sunday. A win would also put the Patriots in a better position to clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
New England’s IR includes: Martellus Bennett, Marcus Cannon, Keionta Davis, Nate Ebner, Julian Edelman, Antonio Garcia, Dont’a Hightower, Andrew Jelks, Cyrus Jones, Harvey Langi, Shea McClellin, Malcolm Mitchell, Derek Rivers, and Vincent Valentine.