By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Let's be clear up front: the Patriots don't have to activate N'Keal Harry this week. And just because it looks like they might do it this weekend, it's not necessarily going to happen.
The rookie receiver returned to practice and became an official return designation from injured reserve on Oct. 15. That means the Patriots have until next Tuesday, Nov. 5 to activate him. It's entirely possible that Bill Belichick will want to hold Harry out of the game in Baltimore, which would be a huge pressure spot to throw a rookie receiver into for his first NFL game.
But there have been signs that the Pats will indeed activate Harry in time for Sunday's game. They have until 4 p.m. on Saturday to do so.
Harry's locker had a travel bag parked in front of it, a sign that he's at least preparing for the possibility of traveling to Baltimore with the team. That still doesn't necessarily mean he'll be activated before Sunday, but it's a signal that he's trending in that direction.
Belichick was asked about Harry's progress in his Friday press conference, and hinted that the rookie will have a role on special teams. He lined up as a punt returner at times during training camp.
"I think he works hard," said Belichick. "He’s worked hard at everything, special teams role, offense, so we’ll see how it goes here for the weekend."
Even if the Patriots do activate Harry, it's unrealistic to expect him to step right in and be a major factor in the offense. Harry does have first-round talent so it also wouldn't be shocking if he caught six balls for 75 yards and a touchdown right out of the gate.
But again, it's important to note that the Patriots can safely save his activation for early next week. So Belichick's comments and the indications we got on Friday may not mean much in terms of Harry's availability for Sunday. But the positive signs are there.
James White added to injury report
Patriots running back James White doesn't get enough credit for his durability. He's barely ever on the injury report and has played 67 of a possible 71 games since the start of the 2015 season. His one game missed this year was due to the birth of his child.
So it's a bit of a shock to see White pop up as a late addition to the Week 9 injury report. White was limited on Friday with a toe injury.
He joins seven others who were limited and are listed as questionable: RB Rex Burkhead (foot), S Patrick Chung (heel/chest), WR Julian Edelman (chest/shoulder), TE Ryan Izzo (concussion), TE Matt LaCosse (knee), G Shaq Mason (ankle), and WR Gunner Olszewski (ankle/hamstring).
Brady talks about Ravens' identity
There could be a simple explanation for why the Ravens have historically given the Patriots a tough time and made it to a lot of big games under John Harbaugh. They operate similarly to the Patriots in a number of ways.
Tom Brady has played a lot of big games against the Ravens, but not always against the same roster. So what's the commonality between all these Harbaugh-coached teams that have consistently competed well against Belichick?
"They do everything well," said Brady. "So I think it’s not one thing, it’s kind of everything, and the coaches put them in a good position. They’ve had great players – I mean, Hall of Fame players – good schemes, and then good units. They have good players that play well and play within the style of play that their coach asks them to play, and they do a great job."
Good players executing what the coaches ask of them. Sounds familiar.
As Belichick continues to seemingly get better while every other coach gets worse, Harbaugh could be one of the league's last hopes at giving him a real challenge in the coaching department. But there will be a lot of good players on the field Sunday night, too. This should be a fun one.
More Notes From Foxboro coming on Saturday.
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].