FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – NFL teams must reduce their active rosters from 80 down to a final 53 players by 4 p.m. Eastern today. In doing so, the Patriots continue to make news with some high-profile players – although this latest one is less eye-popping than what came down earlier this morning.
As that ESPN report suggests, cornerback Stephon Gilmore will start the regular season in the same place he began training camp this summer: on the physically unable to perform list (PUP).
The difference here is that, during camp and the preseason, any player placed on PUP was considered part of the active roster and could be removed from it at any point. Now that we're through the preseason, however, the PUP from this point on is a reserve list, meaning the player – in this case, Gilmore – does not count toward New England's 53-man roster. He must remain there inactive for at least six weeks, meaning the earliest we'll see Gilmore back on the field with the Patriots is Week 7 against the New York Jets.
Earlier this preseason, head coach Bill Belichick indicated to the media that Gilmore would be back on the field "whenever he's ready." The Patriots gave us a further clue that this move might be on the horizon when they pulled off a trade with Baltimore last week to acquire a rookie Ravens draft choice, Shaun Wade, to provide depth at this position.
Without Gilmore this summer, New England's secondary struggled with consistency when it came to defending big plays in the passing game against its preseason opponents – Washington, Philadelphia, and the New York Giants. And with reliable veteran Jonathan Jones having come down with a recent injury that has limited his availability since the joint practices with Philadelphia, the cornerback roster atrophied that much more, precipitating the need to acquire some help at this spot.
As the cutdown deadline looms, it will be interesting to see how Gilmore's temporary absence might benefit some of the other cornerbacks who've been fighting to stay on the roster. Younger veteran D'Angelo Ross, for instance, made a solid case for himself during the finale against the Giants Sunday night. The likes of Dee Virgin and Joejuan Williams might also benefit personally from an extended period without Gilmore in the mix. Their situations remain to be seen, although another media report this morning indicated that the team has parted ways with defensive back Myles Bryant, who's been injured himself of late. Bryant opened eyes by making the team as an undrafted rookie in 2020 and contributing on the field significantly, particularly down the stretch.
In the meantime, Gilmore will continue to rehabilitate his quadriceps injury. Earlier this offseason, Gilmore also expressed a desire to redo his contract with the Patriots (he's in the final year of a free agent deal he inked back in 2017). Perhaps this PUP stint will give him and the club a chance to continue hammering out those details as well. Either way, the team can only hope that Gilmore's at full strength and back on the field as soon as possible to give the secondary a needed boost.