As the Patriots prepare to play their first game of the 2021 season, one of the team’s biggest questions has yet to be fully answered: what’s going on with Stephon Gilmore?
The star cornerback certainly won’t play for the Patriots until at least Week 7 by virtue of his being placed on the physically to perform (PUP) list to start the year.
Otherwise, little is known about his health, aside from the fact that he’s in the building, or his contract standoff with New England.
NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport offered a bit of clarity on Gilmore’s situation on WEEI’s Gresh and Keefe show Thursday morning.
“Stephon Gilmore would not have been able to play Week 1 regardless of what list he was on,” Rapoport claimed, repeating his previous reporting on the matter. “A better…gauge of where he was going to be [ready], I was told, [was] Week 3 maybe, Week 4 probably.”
That statement suggests this isn’t just a “hold-in” with Gilmore, assuming it means his rehab from his torn quad is taking more time than expected rather than him simply not taking the field until his contract needs were met.
Furthermore, Rapoport previously reported the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year might be more amenable to playing on his $7 million annual salary over 11 games rather than a full season. (He’ll still get paid the same amount per game but will have six fewer games in which he could get hurt heading into free agency.)
Of course, the injury timeline raises another question: If Gilmore were able to potentially play by Week 4, why not simply place him on short-term injured reserve as the Patriots did with N’Keal Harry?
The NFL insider suggested the money situation might have influenced that decision.
“Let’s say nothing was going on, he had no other issues. There would’ve been a chance he would’ve started the season on the (53-man roster), would’ve gone on (injured reserve) and would’ve come back Week 4,” Rapport said. “That obviously did not happen…When he gets back he’ll be fully healthy, without the little contract boost that he wanted.”
In short, the decision to put Gilmore on the PUP list — in addition to giving the cornerback more time to recover — might be viewed as a compromise of sorts.
Rapoport also suggested the move may have crossed a more dramatic resolution — specifically, a trade — off the list.
“I’d say it’s possible, there’s just not a big window to do it,” Rapoport said. “Like, if you look at just the calendar, he’ll be back (two weeks) before the trade deadline. So, theoretically, somebody would have to say, ‘I trust enough in what I’ve seen in one game or two games to trade for him.’
“I would never rule anything out with the Patriots, but they’d have to have a really good replacement for him to do that mid-season and not have it derail everything.”
The Patriots go into Week 1 with serious question marks and injury concerns at cornerback, including Gilmore’s replacement, Jalen Mills, being limited at Thursday’s practice.
But if the position group can last until Week 7, they might be getting the biggest boost they could hope for in a healthy Gilmore.
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