There was a mix of good and not-so-good news out on the Patriots practice fields this Tuesday. We'll start with the good.
Linebacker Dane Fletcher (knee) and defensive lineman Chris Jones (calf) have begun practicing for the first time this season. Both players have been on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) all year, but have been regularly seen in the locker room and at the beginning of most practices when they take part in the team stretching period.
Fletcher's and Jones' appearance in uniform at today's practice activates the three-week window in which the Patriots must now decide when to activate them to the 53-man roster. It's conceivable that either or both could be promoted as soon as this weekend for the Washington game, but in order to do that, the Patriots would have to make corresponding moves to remove a current member of the active roster.
This week also marks the first game in which center Bryan Stork (concussion) is eligible to play. Stork began practicing a couple of weeks ago after spending the beginning of the season on short-term injured reserve. As with Jones and Fletcher, a move would have to be made to clear room on the active roster if New England chooses to activate Stork this weekend.
Now to the not-so-good news from practice. Defensive end Jabaal Sheard (ankle) was not on the field, but was spotted walking through the locker room beforehand. It was his first appearance on or off the field since he was injured against the Colts in Week 6. Offensive linemen Marcus Cannon (toe) and rookie Tre Jackson (left knee) were not practicing either. Cannon injured himself against Indianapolis, while Jackson sustained his injury last Thursday night versus Miami.
Coming off a long weekend following that game, the Patriots went back on the field today for a rare Tuesday workout. Normally, this is an NFL player's day off. No injury report is required to be submitted today, so, we won't have much more information about any of the injured players' statuses until Wednesday afternoon, when the first injury report of the week must be distributed.
Coleman sounds confident
Rookie cornerback Justin Coleman has had a peripatetic start to his NFL career. He started out with Minnesota, then signed with New England for a day, was released, picked up by Seattle's practice squad for a short time, then signed off the Seahawks' practice squad by the Patriots. Coleman has been a regular contributor in the secondary ever since.
"It was a little bit frustrating," Coleman admitted Tuesday, "but I've been talking to my agent and my family and they [were confident, saying], 'You'll find a place.' As soon as I got here, I figured, this is where I'm supposed to be. I feel like I've settled down. I had to play a little catch-up, but I feel like this is home for me."
The young corner cited the winning atmosphere in Foxborough as the primary reason why he hopes to continue to call this place his NFL home.
"The three teams I've been to are totally different programs. They handle things in different ways," he observed, pointing out that practice is where he's noticed the starkest contrasts.
"Once I got here, it's a whole different world of conditioning. I have to be conditioned to play both inside and outside and help anyway I can. I have to run from the left to the right side of the field after a play and be able to go the next play."
Despite the unstable start, Coleman's been able to prove in a short time that he can make plays for New England, especially after veteran Tarell Brown was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a nagging foot issue.
"I don't think of it as a surprise," Coleman said of his increased workload of late. "I feel like as long as I put myself in this position, and they're giving me the opportunity, I'm going to make the best of it. I try to keep things positive. If I keep my positive thoughts, I can build confidence in myself."
Welcome to McDonald
An even newer member of the New England secondary is Dewey McDonald. The safety was claimed off waivers from Indianapolis last Wednesday and deactivated for the Thursday night tilt with the Dolphins. Tuesday marked his first practice with the Patriots, but he's been trying to get caught up by plugging his teammates and coaches for information.
"It happened really fast, I didn't have much time to think about it," McDonald said of his change of jobs. "I mean, I got the call [from the Patriots] around 4:30 and my flight was at 6 o'clock. I came straight out here. I would have missed the flight, but the plane actually got delayed due to weather."
McDonald revealed that he's staying at a nearby hotel while he searches for more permanent lodging and focuses on getting up to speed with his new playbook. He's also relying on old friends who are now teammates – wide receiver Aaron Dobson and defensive end Chandler Jones – to help him get acclimated to the new environment.