Michel had surgery on his foot in May, in what was described as “maintenance-based to help relieve discomfort.” He has been rehabbing ever since, but his status for camp had remained uncertain, according to beat writer Jeff Howe. Michel rushed 247 times for 912 yards and seven touchdowns last year, in his second season in the NFL. As a rookie, he rushed 209 times for 931 yards and six touchdowns.
Veterans James White and Rex Burkhead will get extra snaps in Michel’s absence, as will 2019 third round pick Damien Harris. Last season was a disappointing one for Harris, and this could open the door to build some momentum in year two. He remains someone to avoid in drafts until we know more about Michel’s status.
Sanu had surgery in the offseason to deal with a high ankle sprain that bothered him late in the season, according to Adam Schefter. The Patriots acquired Sanu via trade shortly before the trade deadline. In eight games with the team he caught 26 passes for 207 yards and one touchdown. In the seven games prior with Atlanta, he caught 33 passes for 313 yards and one touchdown.
Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry top the Patriots depth chart, but the addition of Cam Newton could bode well for Sanu once he gets healthy. Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers, and others are in the mix as well, but Sanu will push Harry opposite Edelman.
Regardless of how close Michel and Sanu are to returning, the PUP list offers the Patriots some flexibility if either player aggravates their injury further before coming off the list. If the Patriots did not put them on the PUP list to open camp, they could not subsequently add either player to the list. If either injury turns into a lengthy absence, the team would not be able to later use the Reserve/PUP list as an option, so it makes sense to be conservative with both players for the time being.