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COVID-19′s impact on the NFL has affected the football careers of Sony and Marken Michel this season in vastly different ways.
Sony Michel, the Patriots No. 1 running back when he’s healthy, is on both injured reserve and the COVID-19 reserve list after testing positive while already injured.
His older brother Marken Michel is in the odd position of being a beneficiary or someone else getting COVID. He was elevated from the Carolina Panthers practice squad Thursday to make his NFL debut on national television against the Atlanta Falcons. He’ll wear No. 83.
Michel, an undersized standout at UMass, has battled to keep his football career afloat. He signed with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2016 after his Minuteman career ended, but was cut at the end of training camp. He spent 2017 and 2018 in the Canadian Football League for the Calgary Stampeders where he had 72 catches for 1,215 yards and eight touchdowns over White Marken Michel Jersey, the two seasons. He was the 2017 CFL West Rookie of the Year.
His play caught the attention of the Philadelphia Eagles who brought him to camp last year and signed him to their practice squad in Dec. 5. He went to camp with the Carolina Panthers. COVID may have helped him again as expanded practice squads made it easier to stick.
On Thursday with three Panthers on the COVID list, Michel was promoted for the game.
Michel, a 5-foot-11 native of Plantation, Florida, chose UMass under former coach Charley Molnar, but like many players, he clashed with the coach and briefly left the team. He returned under Mark Whipple and caught 61 passes for 756 yards as a junior and a senior.
He’s one of three former UMass receivers in the NFL joining Minnesota’s Tajae Sharpe , his former Minuteman teammate and Arizona Cardinals’ Andy Isabella.