Just one player, rookie defensive end Justin Francis, was not in attendance. It's unclear why he was absent, and we might not know until tomorrow. Injury reports aren't scheduled to be released until Wednesday. It's possible he did something in last week's practice, but since there were no injury reports last week, either (due to the playoff bye week), his absence is unexplained.
With one open spot on the practice squad, the Patriots added WR Andre Holmes today. The 24-year-old originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with Minnesota last season. Most recently, the 6-foot-4, 223-pounder was with Dallas, where he played seven games this season, registering two receptions for 11 yards. Presumably, he will be asked to play the role of Houston's Andre Johnson in scout team work this week in practice, as they have similar builds.
Linebacker Brandon Spikes (knee/ankle) was seen, as has become his custom this season, riding an exercise bike when the team finished its initial stretching period.
After practice, he was asked about his health status. "I feel great. I've been feeling great. But it's post-season, long year, nobody's healthy, nobody's 100 percent. I just have to deal with it and try to get better every day."
Spikes added that he's expecting that the Houston Texans will come to Foxborough with a chip on their shoulder after the 42-14 drubbing they received last month. "I hope so… we're going to be ready no matter what. Oh, man, post-season… that's what it's all about. You either go hard or go home, it's that simple. Definitely looking forward to this."
Tight end Aaron Hernandez (right ankle) had to get some sort of treatment on his bad wheel. He retreated to the sideline after stretching, removed his right cleat, and had the training staff attend to him. At that point, coincidentally, the media viewing portion of practice came to an abrupt end.
Fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was inactive for the previous Houston game because of a broken left forearm, isn't putting too much stock in the Patriots' blowout win in December. "The game a month ago doesn't mean anything. It's the playoffs now. It's the biggest game of the season for us," he insisted. "We have to prepare as hard as we can and execute to the best of our abilities, because they're going to be bringing it. It's going to be a hard-fought battle."