The hits just keep on coming.
For the second time this season, the Patriots are dealing with the loss of a dependable running back. LeGarrette Blount left the Texans game early Sunday night with a left hip injury and is reportedly going to be placed on season-ending IR. This, just more than a month after the team saw Dion Lewis go down for the season with a left knee injury.
This leaves just two healthy ball carriers on New England's active roster: James White and Brandon Bolden.
"It's kind of déjà vu. Same thing when Dion went down. You hate to see one of your brothers go down," Bolden said when asked for his reaction to Blount's situation. "Especially, just seeing what was wrong and you're waiting for him to come tell you what is wrong. You have to wait it out, see what's going on."
When Blount exited the Houston game, Bolden assumed the role of lead back, carrying the ball 16 times for 51 yards. Whether he is asked to do so again this week and going forward remains to be seen. Bolden has been mostly used on special teams in his nearly four seasons with New England.
"Whatever coach prepares me for," he insisted. "We try to do a good job making sure everyone gets a good look on everything [in practice], just in case. You never know what's going to happen in the course of a game. So, I believe the coaches have put me in a position to be ready for anything. Whatever coach asks me to do, that's what I'll do. If he asks me to carry twice, 20 times, it doesn't matter. I'm going to go out there and have fun with my teammates."
Bolden could soon have a new teammate in the backfield. According to media reports, the Patriots are interested in giving veteran Steven Jackson a look. The 32-year-old has not been in the NFL this season and last played for the Atlanta Falcons in 2014. He also played under then-Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in 2011, when Jackson was also teammates with wide receiver Danny Amendola.
"Great player," Amendola recalled. "He's a very physical back, he's smart, he's a veteran, good teammate. He's going to get all the help he can and, as a new guy, be put in a position to succeed. He's been in this offense before, too. I don't know if we signed him? Apparently, he's still on the street."
As of late Wednesday afternoon, that was still the case. The Patriots did add a running back, veteran Montee Ball, to their practice squad, and he took part in Wednesday's practice. Whoever else the Patriots might bring in at that position, Bolden maintains they'll be welcomed with open arms.
"I focus on who's here right now. Whoever walks in the door. We're trying to get everybody well-equipped to help us win the game. It's a partnership and we've got to keep it going.
"As a group," he added, "the reason we're so tight is that we like to help each other. If I understand [the playbook], I can better help you understand it, and if you see something I didn't understand, hey, we all help each other. That's how it's been since I've been here."
Bolden also says his preparation this week will be no different than any other, because he's always balanced both his offensive and special teams commitments.
"I'll be in my special teams playbook later on tonight and offensive playbook later on, too. It's double duty and something I prepare for. That's pretty much my job. I'm here as a running back and I play special teams. So, I have to put in time for both of them."
Call me Ishmaa'ily
While the Jackson talk was picking up steam Wednesday, the Patriots were busy making other moves in addition to adding Ball. Veteran defensive tackle Ishmaa'ily Kitchen has taken the place of Dominique Easley on the 53-man roster after Easley was placed on IR with a thigh injury. Kitchen was wearing jersey number 70 at practice.
New England also released rookie running back Trey Williams from the 10-man practice squad and filled his spot with linebacker Kevin Snyder. The undrafted Rutgers rookie has been with Detroit and San Francisco previously this season.
In addition to Blount, the Patriots held safety/co-captain Devin McCourty (right ankle) and linebacker Jonathan Freeny (right hand) out of practice. Both players were injured Sunday night against the Texans.
On a positive note, though, wide receiver Julian Edelman suited up for the second consecutive session, this one taking place in full pads. Edelman (left foot) began practicing again last Friday after a month on the shelf.
Hats and t-shirts season
It's been an unseasonably warm December here in New England – almost warm enough to go outside with just a hat and t-shirt. On Wednesday, every Patriot had in his locker a brand new hat and t-shirt emblazoned with "AFC East Champions" on them.
The Patriots clinched a playoff berth Sunday night by beating Houston, then locked up the division crown Monday night when Miami lost to the New York Giants.