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Patriots RB Rex Burkhead has returned to practice this week

Rex Burkhead, Patriots

The New England Patriots’ backfield been noticeably shorthanded in recent weeks. Fortunately, it appears help is on the way in the form of running back Rex Burkhead.

Burkhead has been on injured reserve since suffering a neck injury in Week 3 of the 2018 NFL season. According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, he has finally returned to practice:

Burkhead is eligible to play on Dec. 2 vs. Vikings. This means Burkhead takes the Patriots’ second and final designated to return IR spot.

In a corresponding move, it seems linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley will be out for the rest of the year.

Burkhead’s looming return is certainly encouraging. The Patriots’ backfield has endured its fair share of injuries as of late. His return would bring some much-needed depth to New England, however, it remains to be seen what kind of role he will take on.

The Patriots invested a first-round pick on running back Sony Michel in the 2018 NFL Draft. Despite a slow start, he had started to emerge as the team’s workhorse back upon Burkhead’s absence. Although he has missed the last two games with a knee injury, he is expected to resume his role moving forward. Running back James White has established himself as one of the premier receiving running backs in the entire league so it is safe to assume he will maintain his snaps on passing downs. Meanwhile, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has shown some promise as a change-of-pace option in Michel’s absence.

Fortunately, Rex Burkhead boasts a versatile skill set as both a runner and receiver. It will be interesting to see if he is able to poach touches from both White and Michel when he returns in Week 13.