After two straight days of perfect attendance last week, New England was missing just one player today. No surprise, it was tight end Aaron Hernandez, who injured his right ankle Sunday against Arizona.
No black jerseys this week. Those honors are bestowed on those players (typically scout teamers) who helped prepare the squad during the previous week's practices… but only after victories.
Before practice, the team confirmed the rumored re-signings of wide receiver Deion Branch and linebacker Niko Koutouvides, as well as the addition of tight end Kellen Winslow. To make room on the 53-man roster, New England parted ways with linebacker Mike Rivera, wide receiver Greg Salas, and running back Lex Hilliard.
Branch and Koutouvides discussed their brief sabbaticals from the team earlier today in the locker room. Please visit patriots.com for their reactions and how they spent the last 19 days away.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, as you might expect, is already enthused about Sunday night's clash with the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. "It's kind of like our rival. I've played them every year since I've been here," he explained. "They're a great defense, and they're a great opponent… Prime time, it's the spotlight, you're ready to go. It's going to be fun. It's going to be a fun atmosphere. It's going to be a good time."
Safety Steve Gregory lauded the growth of Ravens QB Joe Flacco, now in his fifth season. "He definitely has some experience. He's a heck of a quarterback. He seems to be going through his reads pretty well, spreads the ball around," Gregory observed.
The full injury report will be updated here on the blog shortly after 5 p.m., once the Ravens are done practicing.
UPDATE… 4:55 p.m.
New England's injury report listed 11 players, Hernandez being the lone player who didn't take part at all. WR Brandon Lloyd (thigh) and rookie DL Justin Francis (ankle) were added to the list. They took part on a limited basis, along with seven others: RG Dan Connolly (concussion), rookie CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), TE Daniel Fells (shin), OL Nick McDonald (right shoulder), CB Sterling Moore (knee), RB Shane Vereen (left foot), and RT Sebastian Vollmer (back). Patrick Chung (shoulder), as he did last week, took part fully.
Down in Baltimore, five Ravens did not practice Wednesday: LB Jameel McClain (knee), DE Pernell McPhee (knee), S Bernard Pollard (ribs), OL Jah Reid (calf), and CB Lardarius Webb (knee). Two others were limited: LT Michael Oher (ankle) and OLB Paul Kruger (back).