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Quick Kicks: Thu 1/3 practice & locker room notes

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However, the strong winds from yesterday had subsided and the sun was shining brightly, making it feel rather comfortable for a New England winter day.

All 60 Patriots, including the seven on the practice squad, were in attendance for at least part of the workout. QB Tom Brady, DE Rob Ninkovich (left hip), and rookie LB Dont'a Hightower (left hamstring/shoulder) returned after not being seen at the start of yesterday's practice.

Ninkovich was seen stretching out his ailing left side by swinging his leg back and forth from front to back before taking part in position drills. In a pass-rush drill, he was assigned the right tackle spot, got in a blocking two-point stance, then simulated the punch-step blocking of an offensive tackle in the half-speed drill against defensive end Trevor Scott. Take this as a sign of good news that he was out on a frosty day being active in practice just four days after suffering what looked like a serious injury.

There's no injury report for the Patriots this week, as they are on their playoff bye.

New England still has one spot available on the roster, as they currently only have seven practice squad players. The max is eight.

After practice, wide receiver Deion Branch and tight end Aaron Hernandez were involved in a good-natured trash-talk exchange about their alma maters. Branch's Louisville squad convincingly beat Hernandez' Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl last night. Branch was proudly wearing a Louisville Cardinal t-shirt the entire hour the media was in the locker room.

Most players were looking to leave as soon as possible when the locker room was opened for media interviews late this afternoon. Understandable, seeing as they're now off for the next three days. Presumably, they'll get back at it Monday, when they'll know for sure which opponent they'll host the following Sunday in the Divisional Round.

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