Patriots

Patriots

FOXBORO -- Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel fell into the out-of-sight, out-of-mind category for a stretch this summer. But on Wednesday, when the Patriots released their first injury report of the regular season, we got a little more clarity on where exactly they stand.

Burkhead, who didn't play in the preseason and was clearly limited in practice late last month, was not listed on the injury report indicating he was a full participant. Michel, meanwhile, was designated as a limited participant in Wednesday's work. 

Burkhead's availability has to be particularly encouraging for the Patriots. He didn't play in the preseason opener and then missed over a week of practice in mid-August. When he returned, he looked like a spectator in pads as there were drills he sat out during media availability periods. That continued for about a week, and Burkhead ended up missing all four preseason contests. 

Now there's been no shortage of discussion about how exactly the Patriots will cope with Julian Edelman suspended for the first four weeks of the season. And there's been no shortage of theories thrown out there about how it's the running backs who will have to pick up the slack one way or another. 

The issue with those theories was always that both Burkhead and Michel's health was in question. With Burkhead listed as a full participant, there remains a chance that he will complement James White and Jeremy Hill as the team's top all-purpose back. 

Burkhead actually has experience as a slot receiver -- the Bengals used him there in a playoff game against the Colts in 2015 when their receiver group was depleted by injury -- and the Patriots didn't hesitate to split Burkhead out last season. In Week 2 against the Saints, he got matched up with a linebacker in the slot, made a move to the defender's outside shoulder and created enough separation for Tom Brady to drop in an easy touchdown pass. 

 

Burkhead had issues staying healthy last season, seeing time in just 10 regular-season games, and it's hard to project exactly how effective he'll be when he's missed a chunk of time in camp, but the fact that he's a full-go in practice means the Patriots will be close to full strength as they try to cope with Edelman's absence and a thin receiving corps. 

Matthew Slater, who didn't play in the preseason, was also absent from the injury report. Nate Ebner (knee) and Marcus Cannon (calf) were both listed as full participants. Meanwhile, Ja'Whaun Bentley (illness), Duke Dawson (hamstring), Jacob Hollister (hamstring) and Michel (knee) were all limited. 

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