Even though he's been a limited practice participant since late August after coming back from a knee procedure, rookie running back Sony Michel was among the seven inactive Patriots for last week's opener versus Houston.
However, with backfield mates Jeremy Hill (lost for the season with a right knee injury) and Rex Burkhead (concussion) ailing, there would be no better time than the present for Michel to make his Patriots game debut this Sunday in Jacksonville.
"Very eager," Michel admitted to reporters. "I'm doing all I can to prepare, whatever the coaches' plan is. I don't know what the plan is, but my mindset is to prepare as if I'm playing."
Michel came to Foxborough with an injury history stretching back to his high school career. On Aug. 1, in the early days of training camp, Michel left practice with a knee issue that subsequently required surgery, which caused him to miss the next few weeks. Michel remains limited in practice, but says he's doing "everything that they ask of me."
"I've dealt with situations like this in the past," he continued. "This is a different situation, but I have to be able to handle it as best I can, to be prepared when my time comes. I've got great guys around me to support me. I'm still around, learning, getting mental reps. That's very important to me.
"It can be difficult at times, but as a football player, as a competitor, you want to be on the field. At the end of the day, it's a process. You have to trust the process, do whatever it takes."
Rob Gronkowski predicted this subject would come up again this week, and he was right. With the Patriots set to face the Jaguars this Sunday, recent remarks about Gronkowski by Jags cornerback Jalen Ramsey are becoming newsworthy in advance of the teams' latest matchup. Essentially, Ramsey stated that he believes the All-Pro tight end is not as good a player as most people think.
Asked today if those comments motivate him, Gronkowski replied, "For sure. There's always motivation you're looking for," before quickly adding. "It does and it doesn't… you know what I mean? Because it motivates you to hear that. Obviously… You don't always feel the best every single day when you're out on the field, so if that's how he feels, that's how he feels."
"Look, we know when the game starts and we'll be ready to go," head coach Bill Belichick declared when the topic came up in his press conference Wednesday. "I'm sure they will, too. That's when we'll see what happens. Right now, we're focused on our preparation for the game."
Teammates also came to Gronkowski's defense later in the day.
"We know [Ramsey] talks, so, we've just got to do our talking on Sunday, try to win a football game," said cornerback Stephon Gilmore. "We just try to practice hard every week and prepare well. They've got a good football team. We've got to be ready for what they bring. Whatever happens on Sunday, that's what it's about. A lot of people can talk. You've just got to play well on Sunday."
"There's always outside noise. We just focus on what we've got to do," maintained center/co-captain David Andrews. "They've got a lot of good players. [Ramsey]'s a very good player. It's going to be a big challenge."
A reporter asked Gronkowski if he's had anything to say to Ramsey this week.
"No, I don't have his number and he doesn't have mine," he smiled. "It's a big game this Sunday, we're playing them. I'm sure I'm going to have opportunities to go versus him. I'm sure he's going to have opportunities to go versus me. I'm just preparing like I always prepare. I've got to just do my job out on the field, just worry about that."
All of New England's players – including the 10-man practice squad – suited up and appeared on the field for at least part of Wednesday's session. That included the three newest players who were inked yesterday – running back Kenjon Barner and wide receivers Corey Coleman and Bennie Fowler.
The Patriots also made an alteration to their practice squad by letting go wide receiver Jace Billingsley and filling his spot with a running back believed to be Kenneth Farrow, who appeared briefly with the team at the end of preseason.
New England continued its post-win tradition of honoring the players who gave them the best week of preparation on the scout team the week before. Those men, dubbed Practice Players of the Week, are given black jerseys to wear at practice. Six players received those this week following the win over Houston: defensive ends Deatrich Wise and Geneo Grissom, rookie cornerbacks J.C. Jackson and Keion Crossen, and a pair of practice squad guys, o-lineman James Ferentz and rookie defensive lineman Trent Harris.