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Brady, Gronk among practice absentees

While much of America is traveling, the Patriots are staying put. Barely two days after returning to Foxborough from a 10-day road trip, New England got back on a soggy practice field behind Gillette Stadium to prepare for its next match, a home game versus the Miami Dolphins.

Perhaps because of the short turnaround from the extended time away, including a four-hour overnight flight from Mexico City, a surprising number of key players did not suit up for today’s workout – most notably, QB/co-captain Tom Brady and TE/co-captain Rob Gronkowski.

Also not spotted during the media viewing window at the start of practice: safety Patrick Chung, who left the Raiders game in Mexico briefly with an injury before coming back to play, and center David Andrews, who took ill during the practice week in Colorado last week and has not been seen since.

Wide receiver Chris Hogan (right shoulder) and right tackle Marcus Cannon (left ankle) also did not participate, although they have been held out for the past few weeks and their absence was not altogether surprising.

It was, however, a pleasant surprise to see special teams co-captain Matthew Slater (hamstring aggravated at Denver) get back at it so soon after his flare-up. Slater missed nearly all of the preseason and first month of the season with the same issue.

There were a couple of new faces in uniform Wednesday. First-year defensive end Eric Lee, who was lifted off Buffalo’s practice squad yesterday, not only replaced Cassius Marsh on the depth chart, he also usurped Marsh’s old jersey number 55. Lee is somewhat familiar to the Patriots’ coaching staff from having faced the Patriots during joint training camp practices this past summer with the Houston Texans, for whom he played prior to joining the Bills.

“He kind of played outside linebacker for Houston, defensive end in their sub package, so there’s some relevance there for us,” head coach Bill Belichick explained, “similar to the position that was vacated [by Marsh]. We’ll see how it goes.”

On-again-off-again d-lineman Mike Purcell also appears to have been a roster casualty this week, along with Marsh. An erstwhile member of the 10-man practice squad, Purcell was not at practice, but there was an as-yet unidentified wide receiver wearing jersey number 17. Media reports indicate he might be veteran Bernard Reedy, who has spent time with the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers since entering the league in 2014.

There’s no media access on Thanksgiving Day, although it is believed the team will be working at Gillette at least for a portion of the holiday.

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