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Bill Belichick goes in-depth on why putting Rex Burkhead on injured reserve earlier in year was best thing for him

Ryan Hannable
December 14, 2018 - 3:15 pm

FOXBORO -- It is always hard to put a player on injured reserve, but according to Bill Belichick, that may have been the best thing for Rex Burkhead.

Burkhead was placed on injured reserve after Week 3 when he sustained a neck injury against the Lions, and that forced him to miss up until mid-November when he returned to practice. He then played in his first game since September on Dec. 2 against the Vikings.

Belichick noted a few weeks ago a conversation he had with Burkhead before placing him on IR about what the plan was, and then on Friday the coach spoke to why it was the best option, indicating it forced him to stay off the field and not potentially play through something he shouldn't.

"When we put Rex on IR, once he was on IR then he was out for an established period of time so there was no trying to get back week-to-week and sometimes players feel like they're letting the team down because they're not out there and they're trying so hard to get back," he said. "Once you put a player on injured reserve then he's out for a set period of time. There's nothing he can do but wait until that time period expires and I think in this particular case, with this particular injury, that was the right thing, and this particular player who's very competitive and very team-oriented. It was the best thing for him to do and so we weren't on a – we were on a normal pace. We weren't trying to accelerate it because there was nowhere to go, and so as he went through the various processes and was able to move forward in his return to play, when he was ready to come back it was really ready.

"There was no, "I've got a little further to go, I've got a little more to do, I'm not quite there yet." I think that all of that had passed. What he needed to do was get on the field and he did that. So there were two weeks there before he was eligible to come back that he would practice. I think he gained some confidence there with some contact and things like that and then when he started playing he has played well."

Since returning, Burkhead has 11 carries for 22 yards and three catches for 24 yards. Playing with confidence has helped him since his return.

"Very important," Belichick said. "I mean, he could speak to it better than I could, but I just wanted to make sure that we put him in the best situation to be successful and to be able to recover properly from his condition and that he was ready to go and he felt that he was. There were several steps that took place in the process and as he cleared those different steps then we moved to the next one. I think when he was ready to come back he felt like he was ready to come back, and he played like it and he's practiced and played like it since. I think that went well for him. It went well for the team. It was a good outcome for the situation that he was in that came up."

Burkhead had a touchdown in the meeting against the Steelers last year, but that was the last game he played in until the AFC title game after suffering a knee injury in the game.

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