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Spikes back at practice; Dennard among the missing

Linebacker Brandon Spikes returned to the Patriots' practice field Thursday following a non-injury-related absence on Wednesday. Not with his teammates today, however, was cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who reportedly is in Nebraska dealing with his on-going legal issues.

Offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (right ankle, injured against Denver) and rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson (foot, unclear which one, also injured versus the Broncos) have now missed their second straight practice this week. Both players also missed every practice a week ago and were inactive for the Texans game.

Late Wednesday, the Patriots released tight end D.J. Williams, then replaced him on the 53-man roster this morning with wide receiver Austin Collie, who was with the club earlier this season. Collie suffered a knee injury against Pittsburgh in Week 9 and was subsequently released. He was on the field again Thursday wearing jersey number 10, as he did previously.

Collie's return may be an indication that Dobson's injury may be more long-term than originally thought. However, on a positive note, Williams' release may suggest that tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (left knee, injured at Carolina), who returned to practice Wednesday, is close to being back at full strength. New England has just two other tight ends on the roster with Rob Gronkowski and Matthew Mulligan.

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