Before practice, tight end Aaron Hernandez spoke about his injured right ankle and coming back against Seattle last weekend. Initially, he feared it was broken, he admitted, but now it's nothing to worry about. He began practicing prior to the Broncos game, but according to him, he wasn't ready. "Obviously I wanted to, but it wasn't the right thing to do. Coach made the decision that the next week would be best, and I played the next week.
"It's all about confidence," Hernandez continued, "and I got some more practice time in, and gained some more confidence cutting off the ankle, because I cut a lot. And so I gained some confidence, and it made me feel comfortable to go out and play in the [Seattle] game. When you're out there on the field, you kind of forget about everything, and just hope for the best. Once I caught that first pass and got back into the game, and wanted the ball some more."
Hernandez insisted that he had no setbacks after his six-catch, 30-yards-and-a-TD performance. "I came out healthy [from the Seahawks game], and hopefully come out healthy this week. Maybe I was a step slower," he conceded, "but I felt pretty good, and I look forward to getting better."
However, Hernandez was among five Patriots who wasn't on the field for the start of today's workout. The others were left guard/co-captain Logan Mankins (calf/hip), safety Steve Gregory (hip), LB Tracy White (left foot), and rookie running back Brandon Bolden (left knee).
DL Myron Pryor, who's on PUP with a torn pectoral muscle, made an appearance on the practice field for yesterday's walkthrough, but not today. So, it appears the team is not quite ready to clear him for practice yet. PUP players are eligible to begin practicing following Week 6 games.
Defensive tackle/co-captain Vince Wilfork had considerable praise for Jets center Nick Mangold. "He's probably the best. He's probably the best center, I believe. I've been saying this ever since the guy's been a rookie. He's been pretty steady for them. And it hasn't changed. Everything it seems like goes through him: the run game, he calls the plays on the line slides, he's the guy in charge. That's how it should be, because that's their bread and butter. When they need a play, if they're running the ball, it always seems to end up behind [number] 74. He's a big-time player for them. I give him all the respect in the world facing him numerous times."
Patriots DB Marquice Cole is one player who can say he's experienced Jets-Patriots Week from both sides now. The former Jet is eager, he said, to catch up with old teammate Mark Sanchez this Sunday. "I still keep in touch with him. I try not to bother him during the season because you know how the season goes and everything, but yeah, we're still great friends."
Cole stressed, though, that the friendship will be put aside when they're between the lines. "It'll be fun, going against the guys I played with for years in practice and stuff. It'll be fun. It'll be a competitive game. I know it's a rivalry and everything, but you want to go out and win every game. It's not like this game will be different than any other game. It's a game where you want to go out and compete. Both sides want to win. It's not any different than any other game."
Because it's throwback week, New England is decked out in its 1985-era Pat Patriot uniforms. At practice, offense is wearing red jersey, defense white. Sunday versus the Jets, they'll have the entire outfit from the '85 Super Bowl team.
UPDATE… 4:16 p.m.
None of the missing players mentioned above practiced today, and DL Ron Brace (back) was added to today's injury report. He was limited, along with eight others: S Patrick Chung (shoulder, injured at Seattle), WR Julian Edelman (left hand), tight end Rob Gronkowski (hip), rookie LB Dont'a Hightower (left hamstring), OL Nick McDonald (right shoulder), CB Sterling Moore (knee), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), and WR Wes Welker (ankle).
Defensive tackle Kyle Love (knee) took part in full.
Down in Florham Park, NJ, starting safety LaRon Landry (heel) was downgraded from full to DNP, while starting nose tackle Sione Po'uha (lower back) and WR Clyde Gates (shoulder) were upgraded from DNP to limited participation. Two other starters – WR Stephen Hill (hamstring), TE Dustin Keller (hamstring) – went from limited to full participation.
Starting C Nick Mangold (ankle), S Eric Smith (knee), RBs Joe McKnight (ankle) and Bilal Powell (shoulder), and DL Kenrick Ellis (knee) did not practice at all.
Just two other starters were limited: LBs Bart Scott (toe) and Bryan Thomas (hamstring). Five Jets starters were full participants despite various ailments: QB Mark Sanchez (lower back), WR Jeremy Kerley (finger), o-linemen Brandon Moore (hip) and Matt Slauson (knee), LB Calvin Pace (shoulder), and S LaRon Landry (heel).