The New England Patriots' injury woes have been well-documented. Largely lost in that discussion is the fact that two undrafted rookies have yet to practice with the team this season: wide receiver Mark Harrison, out of Rutgers, and Armond Armstead, who played in the CFL in 2012.
As a result, both players are on the Patriots' Non-Football Injury/Illness (NFI) list. From a functional standpoint, the NFI list works the same way as the PUP list.
Beginning the day after the conclusion of the sixth regular season weekend and continuing through the day after the conclusion of the 11th regular season weekend, clubs are permitted to begin practicing players on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform and Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness for a period not to exceed 21 days. Players may be activated during the 21-day practice period or prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the day after the conclusion of the 21-day period.
We are now reaching the end of Week 7—that is, one week into the five-week window for teams to let their NFI/PUP players start practicing. Moreover, the Pats do not need to activate Armstead and Harrison at the same time.
Once activated, the Patriots will have three weeks to evaluate each player before having to make a final decision. During that evaluation window, the players do not count against the 53-man roster. They can practice with the team but cannot play. At the end of each player's window, the team must either activate the player or return him to one of the reserve lists for the remainder of the season.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, their bye is in Week 10 of the season—the fourth week of the five-week window in which to start evaluating players. So the only way for the Patriots to get the full three-week period for evaluating Harrison and Armstead is to wait until after the bye.
Which player, if healthy, would help New England more?
Of course, there is no sense in activating a player who is not even ready to practice. But, assuming that both players are healthy, the Patriots' needs at receiver and along the defensive line likely outweigh the loss of evaluation time caused by the bye week.
So, assuming both players are healthy, I expect the Patriots will start evaluating them before the bye. I would give Armstead about a 50 percent chance of being activated off the NFI list. Given the demands of the WR position, Harrison has about a 30 percent chance of being activated.