The Patriots welcomed a couple of injured players back to the practice field Wednesday for the first time this regular season. Wide receiver Brandon LaFell (physically unable to perform list with a foot issue) and center Bryan Stork (short-term injured reserve due to a concussion) were eligible to begin practicing today, based on the rules of their respective injury lists, and both did so on at least a partial basis. Neither yet counts toward the active roster, so, they will not be listed on the injury report when it is released later today.
In LaFell's case, the team now has as many as three weeks in which to decide whether to remove him from PUP and activate him. They could do so at any time between now and then, so, it's possible he could be promoted as early as this week to face the New York Jets. Stork, meanwhile, can continue practicing while on short-term IR, but is not eligible to return to games until Week 9 against Washington.
Whenever the Patriots elect to activate LaFell and Stork, two corresponding moves must be made on the 53-man roster to make room for them.
Two other Patriots – LB Dane Fletcher and DL Chris Jones – are also on PUP and could have started practicing today, but neither was in uniform. They were at practice, as they have been throughout the regular season, but only taking part in the team stretching period before going off to do rehab exercises. New England now has three weeks in which to decide whether or not to begin practicing Fletcher and Jones. If and when that happens, the club would have an additional three weeks in which to activate them.
More practice intrigue
Another Patriot whose presence at practice was noteworthy was Matthew Slater. The special teams co-captain suffered what initially looked like a severe knee injury late in the win over Indianapolis Sunday night, but he has since been seen walking through the Patriots locker room without any trouble.
Slater took part in drills at the start of practice with his fellow wide receivers and was clearly not at full strength. He was running somewhat gingerly through his routes and cuts, but the fact that he was out on the field at all is a positive sign for his long-term availability.
The same cannot be said for four other players who weren't on the field Wednesday. DE Jabaal Sheard (ankle) and OL Marcus Cannon (toe) both developed problems against the Colts and could not finish the contest. Their absences today were therefore not surprising. However, rookie guard Shaq Mason and linebacker Rufus Johnson were not at practice for reasons unknown. More clarity should come with the release of the injury report.
New England had a pair of openings on its practice squad, which were filled this week by o-lineman Brennan Williams and rookie fullback Joey Iosefa. Williams is the son of former Patriots defensive end Brent Williams, who played here from 1986-93. Originally a Texans draft pick, Williams spent two seasons in Houston before being released. He was last with Jacksonville this summer. Iosefa was drafted by Tampa Bay this year and remained with the Bucs until the end of the preseason. He's wearing jersey number 47, last worn by tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. Williams is sporting number 65.
LaFell collected on a friendly wager Wednesday. His college alma mater, LSU, defeated the University of Florida this past weekend, and LaFell apparently made a bet with Gator alums Dominique Easley and Jon Bostic. Seems the losing school's alums had to pose for a picture wearing the winning school's clothing. LaFell prominently placed a t-shirt and sweatshirt in Easley and Bostic's lockers. He also gave each some verbal grief – good-natured, of course – in front of the media before heading out to practice.