To say the least, the assembled media at Patriots practice this Friday were stunned to see Jerod Mayoin the group stretching session at the start.
The conservative prognosis in media reports after New England's star linebacker hurt his knee early in the Buffalo game Week 1 was that he'd be out 6-8 weeks.
In addition, nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who hurt an ankle against Atlanta and missed Wednesday and Thursday's sessions, was back on the field.
Both Mayo and Wilfork took part in at least one rep each on the kickoff scout team drill that is a Friday staple at Pats practice. There's no contact in that particular drill, but Mayo and Wilfork both ran at what appeared to be a comfortable pace.
Later, during his daily press briefing, head coach Bill Belichickdiscussed Mayo's return to practice.
"Yeah, it was great. I think it was a good lift for everybody to see him back out there," Belichick began.
"Jerod always works hard. He's worked hard since the day he got here. He's a first-one-in-the-building-last-one-to-leave kind of guy. And he's working the whole time, too. He doesn't spend half the day playing dominos. He works hard. He's here with a purpose, gets a lot done. He works all day. Whether it's getting treatment, or doing things for his upper body, doing tape work, or grabbing [linebackers coach] Matt Patricia on stuff or [special teams coach] Scott O'Brien. Whatever it is, he's a hard-working player."
Meanwhile, wide receiver Wes Welker, who has been practicing but then deactivated prior to games the past two weeks, was out there again today. And in the post-practice locker room, he talked with reporters for the first time in a while.
Welker was asked if, when he finally does get on a game field again, his knee injury will be behind him.
"I hope so," he replied. "That's the key thing – making sure I'm ready to go for the year. It's a long season and that's what we're working towards."
Against the Jets in Week 2, Welker made the trip to New York but was held out at the last minute.
"I wanted to [play]," Welker conceded, "but … your mind tells you one thing, your body says another. I had to listen to the body on that day.
"It's been hard just not being able to play, you know. It's always frustrating not getting to do what you love, and spending all this time working hard to get ready for this time of year … it's frustrating, but you've got to be smart about it and make sure you're ready."
In generalities, Belichick explained how Mayo, Wilfork, and Welker getting back on the practice field might affect their ability to play on this or any other Sunday.
"I think we have a few guys who are probably closer to game-time decisions. Sometimes, after they go out and do something today, they realize tomorrow or Sunday it really doesn't improve much and they're just not ready to go. Other guys, that's kind of the start of a couple more days of further healing and by Sunday they are ready to go. Truly, the term questionable, that's what it is."
The determination, Belichick added, is then made by him and his assistants once the player in question has been cleared to play by the Patriots medical staff.
"There are a lot of players that play that can't do everything 100 percent. Each case is different. If a player is cleared by the medical staff, then it becomes a coaching decision. I'm sure you come to work on days when you're less than 100 percent. And you still go to work. That's football. There are days you play and you're less than 100 percent, but you still play. Then there's other days you can't go to work, you can't play. That's cut and dried."
Friday locker room/practice notes
For the first time this season, every member of New England's 53-man roster was on the field for a practice. The players donned shells and sweat pants under bright, blue skies and seasonally cool temperatures here in Foxborough.
As we've mentioned this week, the NFL is observing Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October by allowing players to wear pink accessories during games and practices – cleats, gloves, towels, and the like. At his press conference, Belichick was asked if he'd be sporting a pink hoodie on Sunday.
"That's something we've all been affected by, one way or another," he responded. "Family or friends, or friends of friends. It's a cause, in this organization, that we're all behind. It's a great statement by the league and the players and all of us that we put our support behind something."
WR Randy Moss, RB Laurence Maroney, and QB Tom Bradyare among the Patriots who'll be wearing pink this weekend. But don't expect a pink hoodie, a smiling Belichick shyly told reporters.