The team dressed in shells and helmets and used their Gillette Stadium game field to simulate the wet artificial turf conditions they'll likely face Sunday in Buffalo. Forecasts in Western New York call for scattered showers and temps in the 60s.
For the third day in a row, left guard Logan Mankins (hip) was not on the field for the start of practice, a troubling sign for his availability Sunday. Ditto for wide receiver Julian Edelman (left hand). Tight end Aaron Hernandez (right ankle) remains out, too, and it appears defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick (ankle) suffered a setback. He returned to action yesterday after missing Wednesday's workout, the Baltimore game, and parts of last week's practice.
Rookie defensive end Justin Francis (ankle) was back on the field after missing three straight practices dating back to last week.
During pre-practice remarks to the media, head coach Bill Belichick explained that he'd had a private conversation with tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. on Thursday, after which it was decided that it was in both parties' interests to release the player. Belichick cited "personal reasons" for making the move. Winslow today used his Twitter account to express his gratitude for the opportunity to play in New England, as well as to indicate that he hopes to land another NFL job in the future.
Another transaction was made today before practice. The team brought back rookie defensive lineman Marcus Forston, who was cut earlier in the week. He's now on the practice squad, but to make room for him, the Patriots were forced to release someone else. They chose rookie safety Cyhl Quarles.
Because of Winslow's release, New England has an open spot on the 53-man roster. With o-line depth potentially an issue, one of the three practice squad linemen – Thomas Austin, Matt Kopa, and Jeremiah Warren – could be called up before Sunday.
According to Bills head coach Chan Gailey, both of his injured running backs – C.J. Spiller (shoulder) and Fred Jackson (knee) – "have a chance" of playing against New England.
The full injury report will be updated here on the blog during the 4 o'clock hour.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, a Buffalo-area native, spoke before practice about going back home this weekend, where he has had very productive outings the past two seasons. "Going back to your home town, obviously, it's like a dream. Playing were you grew up in front of all your family and friends. It's a cool experience. Definitely looking forward to the game."
Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones will be facing Bills rookie left tackle Cordy Glenn in Buffalo this weekend. This could be an interesting matchup of young stars. Jones said Friday he's already seeing opponents adjust to his style of play to prevent him from rushing the quarterback. "You see adjustments. That's part of football. That's my job to adjust to the adjustments they're making. I have to get more pressure on the quarterback. I have to do a better job of executing and doing my job."
UPDATE… 4:02 pm
Tight end Rob Gronkowski has been added to the injury report with a hip problem that limited him in Friday's practice. He is now Questionable for Sunday's Buffalo game, along with nine other Patriots, including Mankins, who did not practice at all this week. The other eight are Deaderick (who did not practice at all today), rookie CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), rookie DL Justin Francis, DL Kyle Love (knee), OL Nick McDonald (right shoulder), CB Sterling Moore (knee), RB Shane Vereen (left foot), and RT Sebastian Vollmer (back).
Edelman and Hernandez have been ruled Out.
Over in Buffalo, WR Ruvell Martin (ankle) has been ruled Out. Spiller and Jackson are Questionable, while CB Leodis McKelvin (groin) is Probable.