The Patriots had a modicum of positive injury news Thursday, as defensive tackle Vincent Valentine (left knee) took part after not having played or practiced since late August.
However, wide receiver Danny Amendola (concussion/knee) and linebacker/co-captain Dont'a Hightower (right knee) missed their second consecutive practice this week, putting their availability for Sunday's game in New Orleans in serious jeopardy. Players who don't practice for two days or more generally don't end up playing that week.
The final injury report of the week, including game status updates, will be distributed on Friday.
Amendola was seen briefly again the locker room on Thursday, just as he was on Wednesday, and appeared in good spirits. If he isn't able to go against New Orleans, the Patriots will find themselves in a tough spot at the slot receiver position, as well as at punt returner. New England's coaching staff might have to get creative to fill those voids.
"I did a little bit [in Cincinnati]," running back Rex Burkhead told reporters about his slot receiving experience in the NFL, "but it's whatever the coaches want me to do here. That's the great thing about this team is the next guy's up. You've got to be ready to go. We're going to try to fill that role whatever way we can, whatever the game plan is."
Against the Chiefs in Week 1, Burkhead started in the backfield, but often found himself split out wide as a receiver.
"I'm comfortable with it," he continued. "Still things I have to improve upon, I feel like, for sure. I try to be an all-purpose back, catching balls, and here, you have to be like that. It's something I take pride in… I don't really work in there specifically. Running backs, we run some routes out of the backfield. So, whatever role the coaches want me to do, I'm more than happy to do that."
Even at punt returner?
"When was the last time I returned punts? Back in high school, I guess," grinned Burkhead. "We'll see. You never know."
The Patriots will return to the practice field on Friday before heading down to Louisiana on Saturday.