NFL

Patriots get Damien Harris, Gunner Olszewski back but lose Josh Uche prior to facing Falcons

Josh Uche must miss at least three games after going on injured reserve, but Chase Winovich's return from IR comes in the nick of time for the Patriots.

Damien Harris Patriots
New England Patriots' Damien Harris runs against the New York Jets. Winslow Townson/AP Images
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The Patriots should be a bit closer to full strength this week with a few crucial players back in the lineup for Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Starting running back Damien Harris and Gunner Olszewski (concussions) were officially taken off the injury report after clearing concussion protocol and are expected to play against the Falcons.

Harris, who missed last week’s game, could be critically important to keeping the Patriots’ ground game running on a short week. Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson got 20 physical carries for 100 yards last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns and could use a bit of a breather ahead of his first Thursday night game.

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Olszewski, meanwhile, should hopefully bring some stability back to the return game, especially after Jakobi Meyers looked uncomfortable fielding and returning punts.

Among players who are more questionable to play is tight end Jonnu Smith, who missed the Browns game with a shoulder injury but did travel with the team to Atlanta.

But one notable name will definitely be off the field for New England for at least the next three games.

The team placed linebacker Josh Uche (ankle) on injured reserve yesterday, putting a halt to his sophomore campaign. The earliest he can return to action would be for New England’s Week 15 game against the Indianapolis Colts on December 19. He’ll also get an extra week of rest with the Patriots’ bye week occurring in Week 14.

Uche’s highly anticipated second season hasn’t quite been the monstrous breakout many hoped for. He has the same number of pressures (14) as he did last year with fewer overall snaps, though he does have three sacks in 2021 compared to one last year.

Still, his loss takes away one of the Patriots’ most explosive pass rushers on the outside.

Fortunately, New England did activate outside linebacker Chase Winovich from IR this week, which suggests he could be available Thursday to pick up with the slack with Uche out.

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The team also waived specialist Malcolm Perry off of IR.

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