Cornerback and co-captain Devin McCourty has been out of commission since being knocked out of the Jets game with a right shoulder injury. It was a "friendly-fire" incident, as he put it today, when rookie DB Sterling Moore collided with him while trying to jar the ball from Plaxico Burress.
McCourty has been limited in subsequent practices, but has not been active the past two games – the first action he's missed due to injury since high school.
Speaking to reporters (in a non-radio setting) today for the first time since the injury, McCourty wouldn't predict when he'll be able to return, only saying he "feels a lot better."
"I don't know, I'm just trying to work hard and get back. I don't want to tell you I'm real close and then I'm not out there and it seems like I'm making stuff up.
"No player wants to miss games. Sometimes you have to, but I'm still trying to be a presence here, coaching guys up, and mainly just trying to get healthy … Each day I wake up, move it around, it feels better than the day before."
McCourty added that he doesn't fault Moore for the hard hit ("He tried to make a play …"), and in fact lauded the youngster and New England's other backup players – including wide receiver Julian Edelman, who has added DB to his repertoire – for stepping in and up while McCourty and safety Patrick Chung (right foot) have been sidelined the past few weeks.
"We're confident. We've got a bunch of guys who work hard and try to get better each day. That shows," McCourty asserted. "Guys might not be big names outside of this building, but we don't worry about that. When you watch our games, you see no matter who's out there, they're competing. Guys are making plays on the ball. No matter the name, that's what you're going to see from this group.
"When you see [Edelman] out there, you see competitiveness at its best. Whether it's running downhill making a tackle or a play on the ball, Julian's just feisty. He's doing whatever he can to help the team out."
Though he took about five minutes to chat with the media, which is normally an indication that an injured Patriot is on his way back to playing, McCourty looked to have an awkward time pulling a shirt over his head.
Meanwhile, Chung politely declined to entertain questions as he left the locker room, telling reporters as he walked away with a smile that he was "feeling awesome." He didn't appear to have any noticeable a limp as he did a few weeks ago.
Another indication that McCourty may still not be ready to go this week came on Wednesday, when the Patriots signed veteran DB Nate Jones after cutting Phillip Adams.
Jones gave reporters a few minutes of his time in between practice and cramming sessions with his new playbook.
"Things happened quick and there's no time to lose," said the affable Jones with a wide grin. "Getting right to it. Guys are helping me, coaches are helping me. You know, we're moving right along."
When asked where he's been playing in practice – corner or safety – Jones replied "all over the place; we'll figure it out on game day," but added that he does have some experience at safety.
"Yeah I've played it in my career. I've been a pretty versatile player. That's one of my strengths."
Coming to a team this late in the season is an added challenge, he admitted, "but that's not an excuse. They brought me in here to help this team. I can't sit around and lollygag. I'm in overdrive right now. Trying to be first one in the building, last one out. Been in the league eight years, I know what it takes."
PRACTICE UPDATE & OTHER NOTES
… A somewhat milder day with continuing bright sunshine for the Patriots during their final practice of Colts Week. Players were in helmets, shells, and sweats for the workout, which was outside on the Gillette Stadium game surface.
… For the second straight day, linebacker Brandon Spikes (right knee) and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back/right foot) were the only players absent. Vollmer has officially been ruled OUT for Sunday's Colts contest, while Spikes is DOUBTFUL. WR Chad Ochocinco (hamstring) is PROBABLE.
… A baker's dozen other Patriots are QUESTIONABLE: safety Patrick Chung (right foot), C Dan Connolly (groin), WR/DB/returner Julian Edelman (back), LB Dane Fletcher (right thumb), LB Gary Guyton (shoulder), S James Ihedigbo (shoulder), LT Matt Light (right ankle), cornerback Devin McCourty (right shoulder), CB Antwaun Molden (concussion), WR Taylor Price (hamstring), WR Matthew Slater (shoulder), rookie RB Shane Vereen (hamstring), and third-string center Ryan Wendell (calf). Right guard Brian Waters (left knee) has been removed from the list.
… With both of New England's centers ailing at the moment, practice squad o-lineman Nick McDonald could be a candidate for a Sunday morning call-up to the active roster. He spoke briefly to reporters today and said he's been working at all the o-line positions and doing everything he can to be ready if called upon.
… Out in Indiana, the Colts have ruled OUT just two players: QB Peyton Manning (neck) and TE Dallas Clark (fibula). Eight others are QUESTIONABLE: RB Joseph Addai (added today after missing practice with a hammy), guard Ryan Diem (knee), TE Brody Eldridge (hand), WR Anthony Gonzalez (groin), rookie FB Ryan Mahaffey (concussion), D-tackle Drake Nevis (lower back), guard Joe Reitz (knee), and center Jeff Saturday (knee).
… Rookie o-lineman Nate Solder has reportedly been fined $7,500 by the NFL for a third-quarter clipping penalty against Philadelphia.