New England Patriots

James Develin of the New England Patriots celebrates a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts in the 2014 AFC Championship Game. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

By Matt McCarthy,

Few teams in the NFL use a fullback more than the Patriots, making the loss of James Develin a blow for Bill Belichick and his team.

Develin was placed on injured reserve Monday with a neck and back injury. The team reportedly hopes he can return this year, but with rookie receiver N’Keal Harry and starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn also on IR, the Patriots will only be able to pick two of those three players to bring back later in the year.

Belichick was effusive in his praise of Develin Tuesday, saying “there’s no one person that can do what he does.”

“We’re fortunate to have one James Develin on our team,” Belichick told reporters on a conference call. “He works extremely hard. He’s a versatile player that does things for us offensively and in the kicking game. He’s very dependable…we’re lucky to have him.”

The normally-reserved Belichick went so far as to say he wished he had two Develins available to him.

“To have two of him and be able to replace him with another James Develin is just unrealistic,” Belichick added.

Develin is clearly revered by his teammates as well. On Monday, Patriots captain Matthew Slater called the fullback the best teammate he has had in his 12 years in the NFL.

“He is the best teammate I’ve ever been around, bar none,” Slater said. “He’s a tremendous human being, but he’s always been about putting this team first. He’s always been about sacrificing for the greater good. When you talk about everything that this organization hopes to stand for, nobody embodies it better than James.”

The seven-year veteran made the Pro Bowl in 2017.

The Patriots will now turn to rookie fullback Jakob Johnson in Develin’s place. Johnson was promoted from the practice squad ahead of Sunday’s game with the Jets but was only on the field for one snap, the game-ending kneel-down.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.