Winning may heal all wounds, but the Patriots are hurting this week.
No fewer than 18 players were listed on New England's injury report Wednesday, including wide receiver Curtis Jackson, who had to go on injured reserve late Tuesday with an ankle injury suffered Sunday against Atlanta. Even with Jackson not taking an active roster spot, 17 of the remaining 52 players, or 33 percent, are officially injured.
As a result, Head Coach Bill Belichick and his coaching staff will not be able to practice as much as they would like. Players will get less repetitions, linemen will have to take snaps on either side of the ball and defensive backs will have to line up as wide receivers.
"We have a lot of bumps and bruises; a lot of guys who are getting over things," Belichick said. "I can't ever remember in my career having to scale practices back to the degree we are going to be doing it today and probably through the week."
Literally every position other than the kicking specialists is represented on the list. The most glaring problem is on the offensive line, where starting tackles Matt Light (shoulder) and Greg Robinson-Randall (ankle) are both doubtful and guard Joe Andruzzi (chest) is probable. Light was unable to go against Atlanta, and Robinson-Randall was hurt in the first quarter of the game. After gutting it out the rest of the game, Robinson-Randall saw his condition worsen in the days following.
Already thin at the spot after Adrian Klemm was put on injured reserve last week, the Patriots may have to scramble to fill the spots as the week goes on. Veteran Grant Williams adequately filled in for Light last week and will fill one spot. If both spots need bodies, rookie Kenyatta Jones, practice squad player Tom Ashmore and guard Mike Compton would be options.
Compton said the coaches had not mentioned moving him as of Wednesday morning, and it's unlikely the team will want to make wholesale changes. Compton, Andruzzi and center Damien Woody have solidified the interior of the line. Jones did work a bit at left tackle in camp, and Ashmore has worked at tackle in practice.
The other side of the line has several names on the list, with Willie McGinest and Richard Seymour both questionable with leg injuries and Anthony Pleasant questionable with the flu. The defense is a little more encouraging with the McGinest and Seymour problems just being continuations of previous problems. New England also has a little more depth on the defensive line with quality reserve play from the likes of Riddick Parker and David Nugent in recent games.
"We are trying to pull out all the stops and get everyone as much treatment and get everyone as healthy as we can for what I know will be a real physical game," Belichick said. "If we can get any healthy guys out there we will, but if that's not the case we'll have to try and get everyone else ready. We just don't have enough guys out there to be able to last in practice the way we normally would."
Belichick said that Drew Bledsoe is participating more in practice, but he is still not cleared for any type of contact. The quarterback is still doubtful with his chest injury.
"He practicing with them just like everyone else is. There is no difference between him and what Damon [Huard] or J.R. [Redmond] or anyone else does," Belichick said. "[But] He's doubtful for the game, and he'll be no more than the third quarterback."
The Patriots are also thin at wide receiver, with Jackson gone and Terry Glenn still questinable with his hamstring injury. He is better than he was last week, but he did not practice Wednesday. Belichick was more optimistic about Glenn having a chance to practice this week than he has been the last two weeks.
The only player out for the game is linebacker Bryan Cox, who is still recovering from a broken leg. Safety Antwan Harris (ankle) and tight end Rod Rutledge (ankle) are questionable. The players who will probably play are Andruzzi, wide receiver Troy Brown (ankle), safety Je'Rod Cherry, defensive end Bobby Hamilton (knee), cornerback Terrance Shaw (leg), running back Antowain Smith (knee) and linebacker T.J. Turner.
With the 1-6 Buffalo Bills coming in, it could be thought that if there was a good time to be banged up, this would be it. Belichick was not taking that view at all, saying his players needed to get themselves prepared for Sunday.
"I have a lot of respect for Buffalo. They could have easily won three or four of their games, and they had San Diego beat," Belichick said. ""We need them this week. I don't need a bunch of guys coming to me in December saying, 'Put me in Coach.' We've got big games coming up, and we need to win them. I'm not looking to next year, believe me."