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McCourty back in action, but Brady, Gronk out

News and notes from Patriots practice and locker room interviews.


A lot of people might have called out sick from work today to go see the new Star Wars film, but that's probably not why Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and others weren't at practice (even though there is a movie theater showing it right next to Gillette Stadium).

Starting center Bryan Stork was also among the missing Friday, a list that included linebackers Jonathan Freeny (right hand) and Eric Martin (illness).

Brady's absence is notable for several reasons, not least of which is that he almost never misses practice. The timing is also odd in that it happened on a Friday. Typically, if a player practices all week, but comes down with an injury or illness late in the week, his availability for that weekend's game is thrust into doubt. An initial media report by The Boston Globe suggested that Brady was dealing with some sort of illness. Other media reports indicated that Gronkowski's absence was not injury-related.

Meanwhile, some good news as relates to Patriots injuries as safety/co-captain Devin McCourty (right ankle) was able to suit up after sitting out the past two sessions. Wide receiver Julian Edelman (left foot) also took part again, as he has all week. Edelman's participation has been limited in three previous workouts since last Friday, his first day back in uniform since undergoing surgery last month.

Hanker-ing to play again

One of the newest players on the team, wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, took a few questions from the media after Friday's practice.

"I'm feeling pretty good. Playing this game, you'll never be 100 percent," he said when asked about his hamstring problem that led to his eventual departure from Atlanta.

Calling the injury a "turning point" in his career, Hankerson declared his excitement for a new start in New England and maintained that he never gave up on playing again in 2015 after the Falcons placed him on what is normally the season-ending injured reserve list.

"I was just doing my thing, rehabbing… you never know what can happen, so, you just have to stay on top of your stuff. That's exactly what I was doing."

Hankerson added that his priority now is to absorb as much of the Patriots playbook as possible in a short amount of time.

"Got to come in, work hard… it's tough to pick it up. Just have to keep working, meeting with the coaches, doing extra stuff."

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