Help on the way? Patriots rookie WR N'Keal Harry eligible to return to practice

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

The Patriots have the potential for legit reinforcements on offense, particularly at wide receiver. Rookie first-round pick N'Keal Harry, who spent the first six weeks of the season on injured reserve, is eligible to return to practice starting Monday. He can return to game action as soon as Week 9 at the Ravens.

Harry landed on IR after being named to the 53-man roster, giving the Patriots the ability to activate him later in the year. The rookie WR out of Arizona State can now return to practice within five weeks. Once he returns, the Patriots have 21 days to activate him or place him back on IR, which would end his season.

Receiver is becoming more of a need for the Patriots as the season goes along. Since releasing Antonio Brown, Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Phillip Dorsett have suffered injuries. Gordon has particularly slowed down on the stat sheet amid knee issues. He played well in Week 3 against the Jets with six catches for 86 yards, but hasn't caught a touchdown since Week 1 against the Steelers.

Dorsett is dealing with a hamstring injury that kept him out of the Patriots' short-week win over the Giants last Thursday. His injury is "minor", according to Adam Schefter. But he's also deemed "week-to-week" as even slight hamstring injuries can linger or get worse.

Jun 5, 2019; Foxborough, MA: New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry warms up during mandatory minicamp at the Gillette Stadium practice field. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
Jun 5, 2019; Foxborough, MA: New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry warms up during mandatory minicamp at the Gillette Stadium practice field. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

The Patriots' rash of injuries on offense ultimately thrust rookies Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski into every-down roles for the final five possessions of New England's 35-14 win on Thursday Night Football. Meyers and Olszewski combined to catch six of seven targets for 88 yards.

Asked about Harry on his Monday conference call, Belichick said the Patriots intend to bring him back to practice "if he's ready" this week.

"We hope he'll be ready to go," Belichick said.

Also eligible to return to practice this week is rookie offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste. But since he started the season on the reserve/non-football injury (NFI) list and not the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, he'd be subject to the same rules as IR. The Patriots would need to designate him as one of only two players who can return from that list. I Harry comes back the second spot appears more likely to be saved for second-year left tackle Isaiah Wynn, who landed on IR after Week 2. He can return to practice in Week 9 and would be eligible to return to games as early as Week 11.

At receiver, Brown continues to hover around the forefront of the discussion about the Patriots' need for a playmaker at the position. Harry alone might be proof that they can add enough talent without all the unnecessary distractions that came with Brown in just 11 days in New England. The rookie flashed his first-round talent in the preseason and should be able to carve out at least a complementary role once he gets back to game action. And he should absolutely get that opportunity.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].