The Patriots went with shorts, shells, and helmets again for this final tune-up, which was on the Gillette Stadium game field.
Safety Steve Gregory (hip) and wide receiver Julian Edelman (left hand) remain absent from practice, as they have all week. Meanwhile, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (concussion) was not on the field to start today's session. He had missed Wednesday as well before returning to action on a limited basis yesterday.
Cornerback Ras-I Dowling was back in uniform today. He was out for non-injury reasons Thursday, reportedly because of a death in the family.
Rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower (left hamstring) told reporters before practice that his ailing leg is pain-free. He injured himself last Sunday in Buffalo during a first-quarter tackle of Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Hightower, however, would not say whether he'll be a factor this weekend against Denver. "Each day it's getting better, I'm feeling better, I'm moving around great. It's going to be a game-time decision, it's going to be up to [the team's medical staff] and Coach Belichick."
Hightower admitted it was difficult, from a personal standpoint, to be reduced to a spectator against Buffalo, but was buoyed by the performance of the New England defense as a whole. "[E]verybody else did a great job picking up where I left off. Hopefully I'll be able to get out there this weekend."
DE Chandler Jones was grateful for being named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Month for September. He gave credit to his teammates for helping him make the many plays that earned him the league-wide recognition Yet, he was also not satisfied with himself. "I feel personally that it's not good enough," Jones said before heading out to practice. "Even though they say I'm the Rookie of the Month for September, we have a .500 record; that's just not good enough…. What have I learned about myself? That I have a lot of work to do."
In his weekly Friday remarks, wide receiver Wes Welker shared his thoughts on Broncos shut-down corner Champ Bailey, who's still one of the best in the game at age 34. "He's got great instincts, and he changes things up quite a bit," Welker observed. "He's just a great ball player. I think he just gets out of bed and he's just great… He's very patient, and does a good job getting his hands on you. Smart guy, instincts, all those things – it's why he's stayed around so long."
So, how does a receiver get open on Bailey? "You have to be very precise, and keep him on his toes, and make sure that you're really mixing it up on him and being physical," replied Welker.
The full injury report, with game status details, will be updated here on the blog during the 4 o'clock hour.
UPDATE… 3:53 pm
Gregory and Edelman did not practice at all this week and have been ruled OUT for Sunday's game with Denver. With Gregory a no-go, look for rookie Tavon Wilson to start at free safety.
Twelve other Patriots are QUESTIONABLE (50-50 chance of playing), including tight ends Aaron Hernandez (right ankle) and Rob Gronkowski (hip) and Hoomanawanui. The rest are rookie RB Brandon Bolden (knee), DL Brandon Deaderick (ankle), rookie DL Justin Francis (ankle), rookie LB Dont'a Hightower (left hamstring), left guard Logan Mankins (calf/hip), OL Nick McDonald (right shoulder), CB Sterling Moore (knee), RB Shane Vereen (left foot), and RT Sebastian Vollmer (back).
Defensive tackle Kyle Love (knee) is PROBABLE (75 percent chance of playing).
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder) was removed from the injury report, as was Dowling.
Out in Denver, all five players listed are PROBABLE: starting right corner Tracy Porter (shoulder), starting right guard Chris Kuper (forearm), backup linebacker Nate Irving (concussion), backup corner Chris Harris (ankle), and backup receiver Matt Willis (hamstring).