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Quick Kicks: Sun 9/2 practice & locker room notes

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Four players were not in attendance: running backs Shane Vereen (left lower leg injury) and Danny Woodhead; safety Steve Gregory; tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.

In addition, as media were marching up the stairs to the practice fields, tight end Aaron Hernandez was headed in the opposite direction. He was leaving the practice fields, in full uniform, but did not appear injured and was not accompanied by any team medical staff. It's unclear why he was leaving, but he did not return during the 15-minute media viewing window.

Safety Patrick Chung was wearing a red (no-contact) jersey. He injured a shoulder against the Eagles and only returned to practice this past Friday.

O-lineman Nick McDonald (right arm) took part in stretching, but was only dressed in shorts and a t-shirt.

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The newest players all suited up for practice. Wide receiver Greg Salas was assigned jersey number 17; center Matt Tennant donned 69; practice squad receiver Sam Kirkland was given 19; practice squad o-lineman Thomas Austin is the new 72 on the Patriots roster. You may remember Austin, who was with the Patriots for parts of 2010 and '11.

Meanwhile, New England had one practice squad spot open going into Sunday, but they filled it with fullback James Develin. The former Brown University defensive end converted to fullback in 2010 when he entered pro football. Last season, Develin was a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. He's wearing jersey number 46 here in New England.

Linebacker Dont'a Hightower (45) and Mike Rivera (47) will have to change numbers soon. By NFL rules, linebackers must wear digits in the 50s or 90s during the regular season. As of today, both still had their 40-range numbers. There will also be a jersey number change coming, in all likelihood, for either McDonald or rookie d-lineman Marcus Forston, who currently share 65. Presumably, the rookie will be given a new number sometime this week.

QB Ryan Mallett briefly spoke with reporters prior to practice. With the release this past Friday of former backup passer Brian Hoyer, Mallett is now the one and only understudy to starter Tom Brady. "I have a different role, obviously, than I had last year. I'm one snap away, so I have to be ready," Mallett stated. "It's a business. You're sad to see [Hoyer] go. He's a good friend of mine now. You just have to move on."

Right guard Brian Waters still has a nameplate and a couple of items of clothing hanging in his locker, but the majority of his space has been cleaned out. Asked about the Pro Bowler during his pre-practice press briefing, head coach Bill Belichick would only say that Waters is not with the team at this time. No further update on his status for 2012 was given. The state of his locker, however, gave little indication that his return is imminent. Waters remains under contract with the Patriots for this season. He is officially listed on the Reserve/Did Not Report list.

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