The Patriots suited up in full pads for Thursday's practice, and for the first time since September, running back Rex Burkhead joined them.
After suffering a neck injury against Detroit in Week 3, Burkhead went on injured reserve. However, he was considered by many analysts (including us at PFW/patriots.com) to be a candidate for one of New England's two "designated to return" spots on the IR list. Rookie cornerback Duke Dawson was the first player so designated this season, and with his appearance at today's session, Burkhead becomes the second.
Of course, just because these two players are practicing now doesn't necessarily mean they'll be re-activated to the 53-man roster, but it is an encouraging sign. Based on when Dawson came back to practice last month, New England has until next Wednesday (Nov. 14) to activate him. Burkhead, meantime, is eligible to play again beginning with the Vikings game in early December.
However, now that both Dawson and Burkhead are participating in practices again, they are officially the two Patriots designated for return from IR this season. Any other players currently on the list or who might be placed on it from now until season's end will be done for the year with no opportunity to play again until 2019.
Also of note from today's session, left tackle Trent Brown was not there again after he was held out on Wednesday due to an illness. His status for Sunday's game in Tennessee might be in question if he's unable to take part in practice on Friday.
It also appeared that Cole Croston was back on the practice squad. The offensive lineman was back in his number 74 uniform. Meanwhile, defensive back David Jones was not spotted on the field, presumably to make room for Croston on the 10-man practice squad.