As remnants of Hurricane Willa combined to create New England's first nor'easter of the season, the Patriots were forced inside their practice bubble for the final padded practice of Bills Week.
Players wore shells (their smaller, lighter shoulder pads) and helmets at today's session, which included a somewhat surprising participant in Sony Michel. Less than a week after appearing to suffer a catastrophic knee injury in Chicago, the rookie running back rejoined his teammates for on-field training.
Media reports following the Bears game indicated that Michel could miss one to two weeks of action – far less than many observers originally feared when Michel was taken off the Soldier Field turf on a cart. Even with that more optimistic prognosis, Michel's appearance at Saturday's practice came as a mild surprise. He hadn't taken part in any of the three previous practices this past week.
It remains to be seen if Michel will be a factor this Monday night when the Patriots take on the Bills in Buffalo, but in all likelihood, Michel's return this late in the work week means he'll be held out for at least this game. Nevertheless, his ability to take part at all in today's workout should be taken as a positive development in his convalescence from this latest injury.
Also participating for the third consecutive session were tight end Rob Gronkowski and right tackle Marcus Cannon, who didn't play at Chicago due to back spasms and a concussion, respectively.
"I feel good," Gronkowski later told reporters. "One step at a time. Doing whatever I need to do to get back on the field."
He added that he expects to make the trip to Western New York this weekend.
"Unless they tell me not to," he smiled.
Remaining absent were cornerback Eric Rowe (groin) and offensive lineman Brian Schwenke (foot). Rowe aggravated a lingering condition during the Bears game and hasn't practiced this week, while Schwenke suffered his ailment during Wednesday's training.
This week's game at Buffalo marks the halfway point of the 2018 campaign for New England. Yet, QB Tom Brady remarked Saturday that his trio of top pass catchers – Gronkowski and wide receivers Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon – is "still in its infancy."
Edelman missed the first month of the season while serving a suspension, while Gordon was a late arrival via trade.
"We haven't had that much time with the whole group together," said Brady, who also included Michel in that group of skill position players. "We've got a lot of room to grow. I think we're trying to work at it every day in practice to see if we can make improvements from week to week."
Gronkowski praised Gordon for his ability to integrate himself into the Patriots offense with relative ease, but Gordon admits he hasn't done it alone, remarking that his New England teammates and coaches have been instrumental to him.
"It's a great space and environment to work," Gordon said Saturday. "Everyone's focused, locked in. It's a breeding ground for excellence. So, I can't do anything but get involved and become part of it. I'm getting a feel for what my role is. It could change week-to-week. I like the unexpectedness of it. Keeps it fresh, keeps it fun.
"I just like asking a lot of questions," added Gordon, "because I don't like going out there not knowing what to do. If I can rely on [my teammates and coaches] and they don't mind me asking, I'm just going to keep asking until I know 100-percent that I've got it. I'm appreciative of them being patient with me."
Flores to be honored
Patriots linebacker coach (and de facto defensive coordinator) Brian Flores will become the latest member of the organization to be honored by the Hockomock Area YMCA, which serves Foxborough and nearby communities Franklin, North Attleboro, and Mansfield.
At the Y's upcoming gala event on Nov. 6, Flores will receive the 2018 Legends Award. He is being honored for his support of the Y's Integration Initiative. Since 2004, that program has provided "opportunities for children with special needs to participate in YMCA programs and activities alongside their typically-developing peers," according to an official announcement from the Y. Flores' youngest brother, Chris, is an active Integration Initiative participant.
Speaking at a breakfast gathering back in March, Flores told Y supporters, "Anyone who has a family member with special needs know that there's a fear and an anxiety about the future especially as they get older. The Integration Initiative hasn't put our fears to rest, but definitely put them at ease. I've never seen my kid brother happier than he's been in these last two years when he's been part of this program."
The Hockomock Y has previously recognized numerous Patriots, past and present, for their support, including current players and co-captains Matthew Slater and Devin McCourty. The Flores siblings are pictured below (Chris is center-left, Brian center-right) with members of the Hockomock Y's unified basketball team.