Stueber Search: Patriots rookie remains absent from team activities

FOXBORO — Despite struggling in 2021, the New England Patriots offensive line is still considered one of the best in the NFL.

Boasting a balance of capable starters and a strong reserve pool, the Pats’ protection unit recently ranked seventh in the league based on its performance in 2021.

Still, the team invested heavily in its offensive line in the 2022 NFL Draft, selecting three linemen: Cole Strange (first-rounder, 29th overall), Chasen Hines (sixth-rounder, 210th overall), and Andrew Stueber (seventh round, 245th overall).

Although Strange took reps with the starters during OTAs and minicamp, Hines and Stueber were not deemed ready to practice.

Apparently, that’s still the case for one of the Pats’ rookie linemen.

According to a recent report from ESPN, Stueber continued his absence from minicamp and was even absent from last week’s tag team event: the New England Patriots Alumni Club’s “Football for You” clinic. The report said Stueber was the only rookie not to attend the event, questioning the potential reasons for his absence.

Stueber holds the distinction of being the Patriots’ final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-6, 325-pound former Michigan Wolverine has appeared in 34 games with 22 starts. He started 20 games at right tackle and two at right guard. Much like Hines, Stueber projects himself as a potential reserve offensive lineman for the Pats in the upcoming season.

The 22-year-old Darien, Connecticut native chose to attend Michigan in 2016, after being ranked a four-star prospect by ESPN and fourth on Connecticut State’s Top Players list. In his final year as a Wolverine in 2021, he helped lead the offensive line with the fewest sacks allowed (10) and third-fewest tackles for loss (27) nationally and was running back -finalist for the Joe Moore Award. He was named a first-team All-Big Ten by the media and was named a second-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association.

Although some have speculated that Stueber’s absence could be injury-related, no confirmation or indication of this has been offered. As a junior at Michigan in 2019, he suffered an ACL tear in training camp and missed the entire season. However, he returned to the pitch in 2020 and started all six games of the pandemic-shortened campaign; two at right guard and four at right tackle.

Whatever the reason for his absence, Stueber’s attendance at training camp will be closely watched as Patriots rookies are scheduled to report to Gillette Stadium on July 26.

Sally J. Minick