FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Second-year running back Damien Harris, who projected to a significant role for the New England Patriots after a strong training camp, was placed on injured reserve Monday with a hand injury.
Harris can return after missing three games as part of the NFL’s new injured-reserve rules for the 2020 season. The Patriots promoted undrafted rookie running back J.J. Taylor, of the University of Arizona, from the practice squad to take his spot.
Taylor, who also had a strong training camp, has a chance to contribute immediately in Sunday’s season opener against the Miami Dolphins as part of a rotation with Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and James White. The 5-foot-6, 185-pound Taylor, who also returns punts, has drawn comparisons to former Patriots running back Dion Lewis.
The Patriots figure to ease Michel, their No. 1 back from 2018 and 2019, into the mix after his offseason foot surgery. Michel returned to practice just two weeks ago.
Initial plans had Harris as part of that RB rotation, as the 2019 third-round draft pick from Alabama caught the eye of running backs coach Ivan Fears, who had said, “From what we’ve seen, and the training camp he’s had, he’s pretty exciting.”
As for Michel, he said Sunday that his previously injured foot has responded well.
“I would just say I am feeling a day better. Every day is a work in progress. Every day is a day to get better for me,” he said. “Beginning of the season, you’re never going to feel like you’re at the best shape. So for me, I am just going to keep trying to build from there.
“I wouldn’t say caught up because I can’t really make up for those days that I lost that those guys got, but I would say I am in a good position where I am able to get better. I am feeling good. I like where I’m at and I am headed in the right direction.”
The Patriots also placed veteran defensive tackle Beau Allen on injured reserve Monday, and promoted rookie linebacker Cassh Maluia from the practice squad. Allen, a free-agent signing from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who projected as a starter, hadn’t practiced in training camp due to an undisclosed injury.