For the second straight practice, right guard Shaq Mason didn't participate. In fact, we haven't seen Mason in uniform since he left the Bills game early Monday night with a calf injury.
Mason was late coming back to the sideline in the third quarter, although he didn't miss a snap because Buffalo had the ball first in the second half. However, after New England's first possession, Mason was replaced by Ted Karras and has not been spotted on the field since.
With backup right tackle LaAdrian Waddle having started the past two weeks for Marcus Cannon (concussion), offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia admitted Thursday that the health of the right side of the o-line is in a troublesome state. In the same breath, though, he expressed confidence in both Karras and "L.A.," as Waddle's teammates and coaches refer to him, to step into their respective roles.
"Yeah, those are some things that you obviously have some concern about. But we had Ted out there [against Buffalo]. Every time Ted goes on the field for us since he got here, he knows what he's doing, he knows how we want it done. We can really rely on this guy to come through for us. So, we feel very comfortable there.
"And L.A.'s been our right tackle for the last couple of weeks. He started last year for us at times, especially in the second half of the season, and we feel very comfortable with him. So, we'll see how things are going forward with Shaq and Marcus, whether or not they're available."
Meanwhile, during a rare in-season appearance with the media, Scarnecchia shared his thoughts on free agent acquisition Trent Brown, who has held down the left tackle spot since Nate Solder left for the New York Giants this past offseason.
"He's fine over there. He's big and long and tough to get around," Scarnecchia remarked. "We just have to get more consistency in everything he does, and he understands that. We're hopefully trending upward."
The longtime Patriots o-line coach also wants to see more consistency overall with his group, particularly when it comes to running the ball. Against Buffalo, the Patriots (minus rookie Sony Michel) managed just 76 total yards on the ground, with wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson having to step into the backfield as lead back.
When Michel was healthy prior to the Chicago game, the Patriots were running the ball very effectively.
"We've got to get back to that," Scarnecchia emphasized, "because it's really an important part of our offense. We have to keep balance. The more balanced we are, the better we are.
"I'm comfortable with where we are. We're not satisfied with where we are, and I hope that [the players] are not satisfied with where they are. We just have to keep continuing to improve."
In addition to Mason, the other notable absence from Thursday's practice was tight end Rob Gronkowski, who took questions from the media after Wednesday's session.
Linebacker Nicholas Grigsby also wasn't spotted during the 15-minute media viewing window, nor was offensive lineman Brian Schwenke, who's been dealing with a foot injury the past week.
On a positive note, wide receiver Julian Edelman and defensive end Deatrich Wise were able to suit up again after being held out with illnesses on Wednesday. Tight end Jacob Hollister also took part after missing the Wednesday walkthrough.