The surprise was evident among the media corps that covers the Patriots. At Friday's practice, six injured players were back on the field for stretching and early drills.
Rookie WR Julian Edelman, who broke his forearm against Tennessee last month, was among them. So was veteran RB Sammy Morris, also out since the Titans game, and LT Matt Light(out since Denver) – both of whom have struggled with knee problems. In addition, C Dan Koppen, S Brandon Meriweather, and LB Eric Alexander, all of whom missed practices this week, were back out there on Friday.
"Yeah, it's certainly good to see most of the guys running around out there, participating. Some of those, of course, will be game-time decisions," head coach Bill Belichicktold reporters after practice. "It was definitely good to have them back out there."
"Yeah, they're doing what they can to get back. I have no idea when they'll be back or if they'll be back. Who knows," added guard Logan Mankins. "I know they're working, doing their rehab trying to get back. Only time will tell."
Meriweather also fielded some questions from the media after the practice session, and the theme was 'Facing Peyton Manning.'
"It's tough to do everything against Peyton Manning. He can run a fast-paced offense, a slow-paced offense … he knows what you're running [on defense] before you do," Meriweather remarked. "It's kind of hard to dictate what to do against him. I guess that's what makes him so good."
The Colts are only human, of course, so it's possible to beat them, just not very easy, according to Meriweather.
"You almost have to have a perfect game to get a win, especially in that stadium. The key is to do what we do, be coachable, and make adjustments."
Meriweather made himself laugh when he answered on reporter, who asked how to prepare for an offense like Indy's that features so many weapons.
"You pray," he said, drawing further laughter from the assembled press.
"To be honest," he continued, "you really can't [prepare]. You just have to play your game and pray that he misses a couple of open passes."
Despite that assessment, Meriweather had one word to summarize his thoughts on going up against Manning and the 8-0 Colts.
"Exciting," he said. "I love to play against a great quarterback and a great team. Whenever I get this opportunity, I'm like a little kid in a candy store."
Friday practice notes
In anticipation of this weekend's loud atmosphere inside Lucas Oil Stadium, the Patriots took their practice indoors at the Dana-Farber Field House behind Gillette Stadium.
The team worked out in shells and sweatpants. They'll have a walkthrough tomorrow before boarding their charter for Indianapolis.