Patriots running back James White is expected to miss the remainder of the season after suffering a hip subluxation Sunday against the Saints, a league source confirmed.
There was initially some optimism that White could return later this year, but further tests revealed that the injury is season-ending.
“It’s the worst part of this business,” said Patriots center David Andrews.
Early in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss, White had to be carted off the field after going down on a 6-yard rush. He was immediately ruled out of the game.
White, 29, is one of the team’s captains, and someone rookie quarterback Mac Jones has turned to for guidance. Not only did White provide production as a route runner and a ball carrier, but he also was the most effective back in blitz pickup.
“Hopefully we can play for him and play like he plays,” Jones said. “And that’s smart, tough, and dependable.”
The Patriots now have Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, J.J. Taylor, and Rhamondre Stevenson available at running back. Assistant coach Ivan Fears indicated that all will have a chance to contribute.
Bolden assumed White’s role against the Saints. After playing a total of two offensive snaps through the first two weeks, Bolden played 33 Sunday. He finished with negative yardage on three carries, but caught three of his four targets for 23 yards.
“Brandon was ready to go in,” Fears said earlier this week. “He had been practicing at that spot, he knew what to do, so that’s why we played him.”
It appeared Stevenson was going to be shelved for his rookie season — the same way Shane Vereen, White, and Harris were — after he was a healthy scratch the past two games. But Fears acknowledged the potential opportunity ahead for the fourth-round draft pick.
“He has made big improvements on the stuff we asked him to make improvements on, and we’re kind of happy with him,” Fears said. “We’re excited to see if he can pick up a new role here.
“Maybe he can pick up some of the stuff James was doing. We’ll throw it at him this week and see what sticks at practice, see what he can handle.”
Stevenson put together a promising preseason, rushing for 216 yards and five touchdowns on 30 carries. Listed at 6 feet and 246 pounds, Stevenson is a big-bodied back often compared to former Patriot LeGarrette Blount.
Fears seemed to have high hopes for the next time Stevenson takes the field.
“I think he’s going to be great in his next appearance,” he said. “I think the kid is going to be really good, I do. He’s taken everything everybody’s told him — I’m talking about his teammates, the other backs, coaches — he’s taken it to heart. I kind of like it. I really like it.”
Taylor is also in the conversation for more reps, according to Fears.
“He’s a consideration,” Fears said. “There’s no doubt about it. J.J.’s a very talented guy. We like what he’s been doing.”
The Patriots also hosted four free agent running backs — Ito Smith, Artavis Pierce, Dontrell Hilliard, and Ryquell Armstead — for workouts Tuesday. The team will have an open roster spot once White is placed on injured reserve.
As for whether White will still be around when he’s sidelined? While Fears was unable to answer that, he welcomed the idea.
“I don’t know what James’s situation is going to be,” he said. “You would love to have him around. That’s not the problem. I just can’t speak for James.”