Benefit of Rex Burkhead's return: A fresher James White

Where do Pats RBs rank? (1:28)

Field Yates, Matthew Berry and Stephania Bell look at the Patriots' backfield and decide whether James White and Sony Michel will lose their value going forward. (1:28)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- At one point in the New England Patriots’ victory on Sunday, running backs James White and Rex Burkhead stood next to each other on the sideline, and White asked how good it felt for Burkhead to be back in action.

“Awesome,” Burkhead told him. “You miss it so much. You don’t realize until you’re not doing it for a while.”

That exchange was one of the highlights of White’s miked up NFL Films segment, and it showed how the combination of White and Burkhead -- along with rookie Sony Michel -- share a tight bond as they are back together as a group for the first time since Burkhead went on injured reserve in Week 3.

With a triple-pronged attack, creative offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has more options at his disposal, such as using two running backs at the same time. Maybe he’ll surprise folks in the coming weeks and use all three, which would be unprecedented but not shocking because of the running backs’ varied skill sets.

Specific to Burkhead, he has the versatility to be everything from a short-yardage rusher to a third-down back.

His return to action had a direct trickle-down effect on the usage of White and Michel. Burkhead played 17 snaps, while White was on for 33 and Michel 30.

White’s 33 tied for his second fewest of the season, as he had been asked to carry more of the load with Burkhead and Michel missing time, as well as Jeremy Hill being lost with a torn ACL in the season opener.

So one of the residual effects of Burkhead’s return is that it could lead to a fresher White.

“It’s good to have Rex back out there,” White said. “He adds another weapon to our offense. I know he’s excited to be back out there, and the more weapons, the better.”