Three players were not on the field, and all were listed with ankle injuries: tight end Aaron Hernandez, defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick, and rookie d-lineman Justin Francis.
In the locker room before practice, Hernandez was limping around barefoot from the training room to his locker. As reporters converged, he jokingly told them to get away from him (injured Patriots almost never speak on the record until they've been cleared to play again). At his locker was parked a miniature, four-wheeled scooter, complete with a hand brake, a basket, and a AAA sticker (all that was missing was a bell on the handle bar). Hernandez poked fun at himself and his new wheels, before donning a protective boot and heading back inside the training room.
Wide receiver Wes Welker fielded some questions about his perceived role reduction in the first two games, and what he hopes to get out of Sunday's nocturnal tilt in Baltimore. "Obviously I want to be out there as much as possible… However I can contribute to help us win," he added, "that's my job. I think we all just go out there and do our job to the best of our ability, and whenever you're called upon, you go out there and do that. And our job is to pick up the slack with Aaron being out."
Many observers are eager to see Hernandez' presumed replacement, Kellen Winslow Jr., suit up Sunday night for the Patriots. "He's a pretty experienced guy, he's smart, he's [played] a lot of football," head coach Bill Belichick said of the newly-signed veteran tight end. "We'll see how it goes, but I think there's a chance that he could help us."
Many memories of the AFC Championship Game this past January are being rehashed this week. So, naturally, cornerback Sterling Moore was asked about his remarkable play that saved the game – and a berth in the Super Bowl – his one-armed swipe that forced Baltimore's Lee Evans to drop a sure touchdown pass. He said he doesn't think about it much now, but that he's heard about it constantly from family, friends, and people he meets. "I kind of moved on from it," he said. "I probably took a couple days after the game, but once the offseason came it was kind of on to the next season. I've seen it quite a bit, but most times I try to change the channel every time it comes on… It kind of reminds me how close I was to losing the game."
Had a chance to hear from rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower since his jersey number switch from 45 to 54 – a number of some significance here in New England recently (linebacker Tedy Bruschi, Pro Bowl right guard Brian Waters). "It's definitely an honor," Hightower declared. "I know what this number means to this organization, so, I'm definitely going to try to go out and play as hard as I can. Definitely hard shoes to fill, but I'm working each day to be better and do what I can for this team."
The full injury report will be updated here on the blog around 5 p.m., once the Ravens are done practicing.
UPDATE… 3:59 p.m.
The Ravens keep getting healthier, while the Patriots are headed in the opposite direction as game time approaches. Hernandez and Francis have been ruled Out of Sunday night's game, while ten other Patriots are officially listed as Questionable (50-50 chance to play) for Baltimore, including Deaderick, who wound up participating today on a limited basis.
The others are RG Dan Connolly (concussion), rookie CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), TE Daniel Fells (shin), WR Brandon Lloyd (thigh), LG Logan Mankins (hip), OL Nick McDonald (right shoulder), CB Sterling Moore (knee), RB Shane Vereen (left foot), and RT Sebastian Vollmer (back). Patrick Chung (shoulder), a full participant all week, is Probable.
Only one of the seven Ravens listed on Baltimore's injury report is Out: OL Jah Reid (calf). The rest are Probable: OLB Paul Kruger (back), LB Jameel McClain (knee), DE Pernell McPhee (knee), LT Michael Oher (ankle), S Bernard Pollard (ribs), and CB Lardarius Webb (knee).
According to our friend and colleague Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, LB Jerod Mayo has been fined $21,000 for a hit he laid on Cardinals receiver Early Doucet last Sunday. Mayo was not flagged on the third-quarter play, during which he struck Doucet in the head/neck area after the receiver caught a pass over the middle. In addition, according to Reiss, safety Steve Gregory was docked $7,875 for a late hit on Cards tight end Todd Heap. Unlike Mayo, though, Gregory was also flagged on the play.