The New England Patriots finally have wideout Malcolm Mitchell back on the field. Though he may not be ready to play for their final regular season game against the New York Jets, they’re likely trying to see if he’ll be able to return for the playoffs.
“On Wednesday, Malcolm Mitchell practiced for the first time since Week 1 of the regular season,” reported Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal. “The wide receiver was placed on the injured reserve on Sept. 7 due to a knee injury. Mitchell’s participation on Wednesday starts a three-week clock where the Patriots can activate him to their 53-man roster at any time. If those three weeks pass and Mitchell’s not activated, he’ll revert back to the injured reserve for the rest of the 2017 season.”
This isn’t a guarantee that he’ll come back. The Patriots waited this long because this isn’t a move they want to rush. Doing it too soon and then finding out he won’t be ready in three weeks means he’s gone for the year – even if he would have been ready in four weeks.
With the playoffs looming, though, it’s now or never. They have this week, the Jets game, and then a first-round bye. That gives him plenty of time to practice and show them what he can do. If he’s ready, they can activate him for that first playoff game. Waiting longer than this may have been pointless; they could theoretically lose that playoff game while there is still time on the three-week clock. This way, he’s either back for the postseason or they know he’s done.
Mitchell was huge in Super Bowl LI, the improbable win over the Atlanta Falcons, putting up 70 yards on 6 catches. That capped off a regular season that saw the rookie net 32 catches, 401 yards, and 4 scores. Though the knee injury derailed a promising second year in the NFL, he may now be ready to come back right when they need him the most.