The Patriots could welcome back two players from injured reserve this week, but coach Bill Belichick would not say Tuesday morning whether the team plans to activate them.
“We are day-to-day on everything,” Belichick said.
Center David Andrews and rookie linebacker Josh Uche are both eligible to return to the 53-man roster after missing a mandatory three games while on injured reserve. Andrews suffered a broken thumb in September, while Uche is recovering from a foot injury.
New England’s offensive line could certainly use Andrews, given the unit’s recent shuffling of positions. Against the Broncos Sunday, the line was without three starters: Andrews, guard Shaq Mason, who was placed on the COVID-IR list, and right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor, who left the game with an ankle injury. Backup center James Ferentz was also placed on COVID-IR, further testing the group’s depth.
Uche, meanwhile, has yet to make his NFL debut. The 22-year-old was inactive for Weeks 1 and 2 before being placed on injured reserve.
The Patriots are scheduled to have a full slate of practices ahead of Sunday’s matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, after positive coronavirus tests limited the team to just two in-person practices over the past two weeks. Belichick was hesitant to project the team’s plans beyond Tuesday, an off-day for the players.
“Right now, we’re day-by-day,” Belichick said. “We’re Tuesday. We’ll see where things are today on Tuesday and make decisions on Wednesday when we know more on Tuesday and so forth. It’ll just be day-by-day.”
A sizable challenge
Belichick had plenty of praise for 49ers tight end George Kittle.
“What he’s able to do and what he’s done in our exposures to him is pretty impressive,” Belichick said. “He’s very good at everything — passing game, running game, run after catch, blocking, effort, big-play ability, you name it. He pretty much excels in every area.
"I think when you look at complete tight ends, he certainly stacks up there to this point from what he’s been able to do with just about anybody.”
In four games this season, Kittle has totaled 380 yards on 30 catches for an average of 12.7 yards per reception. He missed two games with a knee injury, but hasn’t skipped a beat since returning in Week 4.
The 49ers rank second in the league in receptions by tight ends, with 47. The Patriots, on the other hand, rank last with only six.
Kittle is the latest tight end to present a challenge for the Patriots, who have already faced Las Vegas’s Darren Waller and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce.
Asked how New England’s secondary can use its size to match up against Kittle, safeties coach Brian Belichick said it seems as though defensive backs across the league have gotten bigger to account for the emergence of tight ends. For example, second-year player Joejuan Williams, one of the team’s taller defenders at 6 feet 4 inches, has often been used in that role this season.
“Someone’s got to cover these bigger tight ends and receivers that are in the league now,” Belichick said.
An honor for Guy
Defensive tackle Lawrence Guy was honored with the 2020 Don Rodman Profile in Compassion and Courage award at the SEAL Foundation’s annual gala last week. According to the foundation’s website, the award is intended to honor “individuals with learning differences who exhibit courage to excel, despite academic challenges.”
Guy was diagnosed with dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADD, and ADHD when he was 20 years old.
“It’s truly an honor to receive this,” Guy said during the virtual gala. “Going through what I’ve been through in life, this is another testament of overcoming anything that gets thrown at you.”
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.