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Patriots Wrap Up: Practice absences adding up

Perhaps in an effort to prepare for their upcoming Monday night game in Miami, the Patriots moved Wednesday’s practice to their indoor facility, where they can control the temperature. Head coach Bill Belichick had his players don full pads, as is often the case on Wednesdays, and wide receiver Chris Hogan (right shoulder) was among them. This marked the first time in more than a month that Hogan has been able to practice. He had been sidelined since sustaining his injury during the Week 8 game versus the Los Angeles Chargers.

Late Wednesday, Hogan told reporters he’s feeling “good” and “trying to prepare myself to play in the game.”

“Today was like a first day of school for me,” he grinned. “I’ve been out for four or five weeks. Pretty excited to get back out there. They’ve been playing really well, so, it’s been fun to watch, but it’s more fun to be out there with them.”

Meanwhile, anytime Tom Brady misses a workout, it’s newsworthy, but today marked the third consecutive Wednesday that the quarterback/co-captain didn’t appear with his teammates. Presumably, this was due to the Achilles heel problem with which he’s been dealing, but since there’s no injury report due today, we won’t likely know for sure what the reason was until tomorrow (teams involved in Monday night games aren’t required to distribute injury reports until Thursday).

There was also no sign of linebacker Kyle Van Noy (right calf), who was injured two games ago versus the Dolphins and had to leave the Bills game prematurely this past Sunday when he aggravated the ailment. New England’s re-signing of veteran linebacker Jonathan Freeny, who was at practice today wearing jersey number 44, is perhaps an indication that Van Noy’s medical problem could be significant.

Freeny was with the Patriots the past two seasons before being released at the end of this most recent preseason. He spent time in Jacksonville and Baltimore in the interim, but most recently had been working out from home after parting ways with the Ravens.

“Feels good to be back,” he admitted. “It’s a great team. Trying to come in here and work hard, learn as much as I possibly can to get back in the groove of things… I felt pretty good out there today running around. Still have to get back in football shape, of course.”

Like Hogan, another Patriot who hasn’t been spotted since being injured versus L.A. is right tackle Marcus Cannon (left ankle). So, his not showing up at today’s session wasn’t unusual, but it did take some of us by surprise that cornerback Malcolm Butler and rookie defensive end Deatrich Wise weren’t seen. Neither appeared to have been injured at Buffalo this past Sunday, so, their situations will bear monitoring as this week unfolds.

Of course, due to his one-game NFL suspension, tight end/co-captain Rob Gronkowski is not allowed to report to Gillette Stadium until next Tuesday, when Week 15 begins. Reading into a minor detail from today’s practice, tight end Will Tye, who has been on the practice squad most of this season, showed up with an 82 jersey, although his helmet still reflected the 44 that he’d been wearing since he came to Foxborough. With Gronkowski out for this next game, the Patriots would only have two tight ends available on the active roster – veteran Dwayne Allen and rookie Jacob Hollister. Tye’s change of jersey numbers to a more traditional tight end digit might be a sign that he’ll eventually be promoted from the practice squad for Monday night’s game.

Until then, it would be up to Allen and Hollister to fill the Gronkowski void.      

“Gronk being out – obviously, he’s an amazing tight end – so, we’ve got to step up and do the best we can,” Hollister told reporters Wednesday. “At some point, everyone has to step up. That’s this week. Just have to go in there and execute… Having this extra day to prepare [for Monday night] will be nice.”

“We all have to step up,” added fullback James Develin. “It’s tough to lose a guy like that, but we have to handle ourselves as professionals and move on and get ready to go. It definitely changes things, personnel-wise, but we all have to go out there and do our jobs. Whatever the coaches ask us to do, we have to handle it and put the best product we can on the field.”

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