Injury Update: A Common Theme for 2016 New England Patriots

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The injury bug has bitten plenty of teams so far, and the New England Patriots are no exception.

Starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer had shoulder surgery recently and has been placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. He will miss at least the first six games, and may miss the entire season. Injuries have plagued the veteran, and he has not played since suffering a leg injury in Week 16 of last season.

Running back Dion Lewis has been placed on the PUP list as well. Once a Heisman Trophy candidate in 2009 at Pittsburgh, Lewis has had his promising career derailed by leg injuries. His debut with the Patriots in September 2015 was his first in-game action since 2012. He provided a spark for the Patriots early last season, showing great agility and the knack for making people miss. But he was once again sidelined with an ACL injury, and has had two surgeries since.

Injury Update: A Common Theme for the 2016 New England Patriots

The news is not all bad, though.

After suffering injuries early in the preseason, defensive end Rob Ninkovich and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell were both full participants at the Patriots’ Tuesday afternoon practice in Foxboro, MA.

Ninkovich, entering his 11th season as a pro, found his role with the Patriots when he signed prior to the 2009 season. He has started at defensive end for the past six seasons and has been a model of consistency on the edge. After being a special teamer his first three years in the league, he has gained the respect of players around the league for performing his specified job to perfection.

Ninkovich was feared gone for four to six weeks after tearing his triceps August 9th, but has returned ahead of schedule. He is welcomed back to a line that has also lost Jabaal Sheard (MCL sprain) to injury. With roster trimming in full effect, his improving health will heat up the competition for the last open spots on the defensive line depth chart.

Mitchell, a rookie, was drafted in the fourth round from the University of Georgia. He ranks third in school history with 174 receptions and was a four-year starter. He spent an extra year in school after tearing his ACL in the 2013 season opener and saw a drop in production in 2014. The 6’0″ pass-catcher was well regarded entering the 2016 draft, but fell to the fourth round due to injury concerns. His hands and athleticism at wide receiver were still considered among the best in the draft class.

Mitchell dislocated his elbow in the first preseason game on a gruesome looking tackle. Up until that point, he had played well and made several big plays. He has a real chance to make the 53-man roster, and the notion is that he could be one of the big steals from this year’s draft. His production is valued with oft-injured Aaron Dobson supposedly on his way out of town, and his return to practice is a great sign. Both Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Brady will need all the receivers they can get.

The Patriots cap off their preseason Thursday night in their annual exhibition game with the New York Giants.