The last time we saw Danny Amendola on a football field, he was wobbling badly. Moments earlier, he'd been knocked seemingly unconscious after a vicious hit to the head by a New Orleans Saints defender. The Patriots wide receiver needed two members of the team's medical staff to help escort him to the locker room for treatment.
Amendola missed every practice last week as a result of his severe concussion, as well as the Jets game in New York, but was back on the practice field in full pads with the rest of his Patriots teammates this Wednesday. New England, which went 1-for-12 on 3rd-downs against the Jets, could desperately use Amendola's clutch receiving skills.
Cornerback Aqib Talib (left hip) returned to practice last Friday after missing two straight sessions, and was back in action today.
While the news was good concerning Amendola and Talib, it remained status quo with two other Patriots who've been out of commission since the Bengals game in Week 5. Running back/return specialist Leon Washington (ankle) and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly (right knee) have not practiced the past two weeks and missed the last two games. They were not on the field Wednesday, the only players on the active roster and practice squad not to suit up.
First-year defensive lineman Armond Armstead, on the non-football injury list since summertime with an unspecified infection, is eligible to return to practice, but has not yet been activated to do so. He was, however, seen walking out to the practice fields today in shorts and a long-sleeve tee. Neither Armstead nor rookie receiver Mark Harrison, also on NFI with a foot issue, has been cleared yet to practice.
Meanwhile, with a need still on the banged up defensive line, New England added a pair of players, one an old familiar face. Defensive end Andre Carter returns after a Pro Bowl-caliber year with the Patriots in 2011. He's wearing jersey 96 these days (he was 93 back then). Carter had been with Oakland until being released there at the end of August.
The team also added veteran d-tackle Sealver Siliga to the practice squad. The 23-year-old has bounced around the NFL since entering the league in 2011. To make room for Carter and Siliga, New England released d-tackle Andre Neblett from the 53 on Monday and rookie corner Travis Howard from the p-squad.
UPDATE… 4:21 p.m.
Carter spoke at length to reporters after practice. He revealed that he'd been doing CrossFit training to stay in football shape the past several weeks, and that his mind was made up: either re-join the Patriots or retire. Luckily for both sides, an opportunity arose to bring Carter back.
"It's great," he told reporters. "Me and my wife were talking [about how] this place holds a special meaning, not just as far as what I did, but just the camaraderie that I had here in 2011 – the town, the city of Foxborough, the state. It was very memorable and I'm just blessed to be back.
The two sides were reportedly talking about his coming back last season, but he eventually signed with his hometown Oakland Raiders. He commented on how difficult it was to leave New England after that memorable 2011 campaign, which was one pass away from being a Super Bowl-winning one for Carter and the Patriots.
"I think what hurt was that we didn't win it all," he continued. "At the end of the day, business is business. I still kept in contact with [Jerod] Mayo and [Vince] Wilfork, a lot of my teammates, and told them they would continue to be brothers. As you know, the game moves on. The Patriots are always going to be in my heart no matter what."