Rookie offensive lineman Markus Zusevics (illness) was back in uniform, but left guard Logan Mankins (left ankle, calf), tight end Rob Gronkowski (left forearm), and rookie defensive end Chandler Jones (right ankle) remain among the missing.
Coincidence? You decide… Wide receiver Wes Welker, a former Miami Dolphin, has caught 75 passes for 981 yards and four touchdowns in nine games against his old club since being traded to New England. Furthermore, he averages more than eight catches and nearly 110 yards versus the Phins – his best numbers against any team that Welker has faced more than once in his career.
"Definitely, I'm familiar with the field and the stadium and I've always enjoyed playing there," Welker conceded, but added, "You're only as good as your next game. We'll see." He has 80 receptions for 961 yards so far this season, just 39 yards shy of his fifth 1,000-yard receiving season as a Patriot. The four he's already registered are a franchise record.
The weather for Sunday in Miami Gardens (where Sun Life Stadium is located) is forecast to be typical for this time of year – upper 70s with a 30-percent chance of rain. "Hydrate a lot," was co-captain Vince Wilfork's advice to teammates. The defensive tackle played his college ball at the University of Miami and is a local native.
"A lot of conditioning. Just making sure that you're ready to go," he continued. "The biggest thing is you can't go down there thinking about the weather. Everybody knows in South Florida you can have thunder storms, you can have sunny, you can have whatever it may be except for snow . . . Just some things on that day you'll have to deal with. Hydration plays a big, big factor. Going down there and playing, especially if you get a nice hot day, one o'clock ballgame, you just have to be able to hydrate well and do everything you can during the week to get your body prepared to play in a place like that."
Welker echoed Wilfork's sentiments about drinking "plenty of water." He was asked, in his experience, which is more difficult: to go from playing in the cold and transitioning to heat, or vice versa? "Personally," Welker replied, "warm to cold is definitely the toughest." Schedule note – the Dolphins visit Foxborough in the regular season finale, Dec. 30.
The locker room is being open for player interviews around 1:30 this afternoon, right after practice. The injury report should be released during the 4 o'clock hour.
UPDATE… 2:42 pm
Tight end Aaron Hernandez entertained reporters' questions for a few minutes after practice. On the subject of missing his pal, Gronk, he had this to say: "I was hurt while he was playing; he's hurt while I'm playing. But when we get back together I'm sure it'll be great."
UPDATE… 4:08 pm
Mankins, Gronkowski, and Jones will not play Sunday in Miami. The following 15 Patriots are questionable (50-50 chance of playing): DL Ron Brace (elbow), S Patrick Chung (hamstring/shoulder),RG Dan Connolly (back), WR Julian Edelman (concussion), tight end Aaron Hernandez (right ankle), rookie LB Dont'a Hightower (left hamstring), WR Brandon Lloyd (knee), defensive tackle Kyle Love (knee), OL Nick McDonald (right shoulder), WR/co-captain Matthew Slater (concussion), linebacker Brandon Spikes (knee), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee), wide receiver Wes Welker (ankle), linebacker Tracy White (left foot), and Zusevics.
Linebacker/co-captain Jerod Mayo (elbow) is probable (75-percent chance of playing).
The Dolphins list seven players who are probable, and just one questionable (rookie FB Jorvorskie Lane – knee).