For the first time since he limped off the Gillette Stadium field in early October, Fred Taylorsuited up. The Patriots running back joined his teammates for practice Friday, but declined interview requests at his locker following the workout.
Asked if he would be traveling with the team to Miami this weekend, Taylor smiled and said politely, "You know I can't answer that."
Morris' presence in uniform comes on the heels of the return to game action of fellow ball carrier Sammy Morris, who played against New Orleans for the first time in several weeks.
Head coach Bill Belichickwas willing to address the subject of his returning backs, to a point, during his final press briefing of the week.
"It's great to have Fred back out there, and Sammy, too. Sammy, for the last couple of weeks, has looked better. You could see a real jump in his quickness, his explosiveness, his ability to make sharp cuts. I'm sure that'll be the same thing with Fred."
Naturally, Belichick would not say one way or the other if Taylor would make the trip to south Florida this weekend. Speaking in general terms, he said, "If a player's not going to play, you don't really need to travel him. Put him on a plane to go three hours and then on a plane to come back. I don't think that's necessarily the best thing either."
Before he returned against the Saints, Morris returned to practice an entire week earlier, but sat out the Jets game that weekend. After a full week of practice prior to New Orleans, he was deemed fit to return.
Might Taylor find himself in a similar situation? Belichick would not say, but he did explain the rationale that goes into determining when a player returns to practice following an injury that has kept him out for an extended period.
"Yeah, Friday, I would say, of the three days – Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday – would be the least physically demanding. A lot of times, you have to consider, depending how long the player's been, which practice you want to start him back on. Wednesday is usually our most competitive practice, the most contact, and the highest speed and tempo.
"Or, if you do it on Friday, you're starting at a lower tempo and you see how that goes and maybe practice him on the following Wednesday. He has little more confidence, at least he's done it. Maybe you put him out there Wednesday and just do scout team stuff. And if that goes OK, maybe you give him his offensive or defensive reps on Thursday."
Maroney mans up about fumbles
Laurence Maroneyhas an impressive touchdown streak going. He's scored at least once on the ground in six straight games, tied for second best in franchise history.
But he's also lost a fumble in three straight games, after only losing one in his previous three NFL seasons. When asked about the dubious streak, Maroney didn't shy away from the contact.
"I take credit for those," he said. "That was just me being lazy … going down to the ground and being too comfortable, not protecting the ball as I fall. I need to get back on my A-game. I went two years without a fumble and now I go three games. I need to concentrate more."
He was asked what was going through his mind during those three fumbles.
"I need my ball back," he replied with his trademark grin. "That's what was going through my head. 'Damn, another fumble. I need to get my ball back by any means necessary.'"
He did just that, in fact, after losing the ball at the start of the third quarter in New Orleans. Maroney then stripped Saints defensive lineman Sedrick Ellisand Wes Welkerrecovered for the Patriots.
"I was on the ground for a minute," Maroney recalled, "but once I looked up, I felt like I had one shot to strip the ball back from him. I put my head on the ball and it came out and we recovered it."
Friday practice notes
Only DB Bret Lockettmissed Friday's workout, which took place outside on the training camp practice fields behind Gillette Stadium.
The player wore shells and sweat pants for the session. New England will have a walk-through on Saturday before flying to south Florida for Sunday's game against Miami. That game, originally scheduled as the NBC Sunday Night game, was flexed out to a 1 o'clock kickoff.