There hasn't been much good news regarding injuries in the NFL this year, but the Patriots appeared to get some on Wednesday when two starters returned to practice.
Safety Steve Gregory (right thumb) and right cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (knee) were back on the field when the team suited up for Thursday's midday session. Dennard's case is somewhat surprising, considering an NFL.com report that he'd undergone a meniscus procedure and was expected to miss at least a couple of weeks of action. Dennard may still, in fact, miss some games, but his presence on the field had to be an encouraging sign for the club's medical staff.
Dennard was limited last week for two days before missing the final practice of the week and being inactive against Carolina. After practice Wednesday, Dennard politely declined media interview requests.
Gregory, meanwhile, was happy to entertain their questions. He came through the locker room sporting a large, thick cast on his hand, but when he re-emerged from the training room, it was gone, revealing about a three-inch scar from the lower portion of his thumb to his wrist.
He admitted it was awkward to go through practice with a club-like appendage on his hand.
"Yeah, obviously, you're not used to it, but it's a process. I've never had to [play with one]. Right now, it's just for protection. I don't know what the situation will be [on game day]."
Gregory wouldn't say definitely if he'll be back in action Sunday night in Foxborough when Denver comes to town, but his presence on the field and in front of the media was an encouraging sign, for sure. Gregory missed the Carolina game completely after injuring himself late against Pittsburgh before the bye week.
"I'm just focusing on running around and getting in shape," he added, "just glad to be out there right now moving around and doing some of those things."
Cornerback Aqib Talib also spoke with reporters Wednesday and was in a much better mood than his last Q&A session, immediately following Monday night's loss to Carolina. Talib aggravated his left hip injury and was unavailable in the closing moments of the game, prompting an uncharacteristically terse set of responses from the normally gregarious player.
Talib was back to his old self on Wednesday, acknowledging that his bad hip "tight up a little" on him, but that he was now "fine." Asked if he'll be good to go on Sunday night against Denver, he responded, "We'll see. I'm out there working like everybody else. Just taking it one day at a time."
He added that his highly visible on-field feud with Panthers receiver Steve Smith was nothing personal. The two are quite familiar with one another, from Talib's time in Tampa Bay.
"He didn't say he was going to punch me in my face after the game… he just told me to go get in the tub. Kinda thoughtful," offered a smiling Talib.
The only player not able to practice today was tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, who injured his left knee against Carolina Monday night. His predicament looked serious at the time, but there's been no word on his long-term prognosis.