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Patriots injury report Thursday: No changes for Pats; Wes Welker, Julius Thomas, Peyton Manning return for Broncos

11.21.13 at 5:15 pm ET
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FOXBORO — There were no changes on Thursday’s injury report for the Patriots but several big names returned to the practice field for the Broncos 72 hours before Sunday night’s big game at Gillette Stadium.

In an indication that he will likely be ready to play, wide receiver Wes Welker had a helmet on and took part in Broncos practice, but was limited. Welker sustained a blow to the neck in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s win over the Chiefs and appeared shaken on the field.

He was not expected to practice until Friday while undergoing concussion protocol, making Thursday’s appearance somewhat surprising. Welker will still have to pass concussion protocol and testing by doctors before being cleared for Sunday night.

Also returning Thursday for the Broncos were tight end Julius Thomas (knee) and quarterback Peyton Manning (ankle). Thomas was limited while Manning fully participated in practice and is expected to be a full go for Sunday.

For the Patriots, cornerbacks Aqib Talib (hip), Alfonzo Dennard (knee), Kyle Arrington (groin) and safety Steve Gregory (finger) were again all limited on Thursday. The only player who was missing was Michael Hoomanawanui, who injured his knee in Monday’s loss to the Panthers.


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Patriots have same injury report, with Hoomanawanui the only absence

11.21.13 at 5:09 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” For the second consecutive day, the Patriots had the same series of players on the injury report, as tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was absent and several of the recently hobbled defensive backs — including cornerbacks Aqib Talib (hip), Alfonzo Dennard (knee), Kyle Arrington (groin) and safety Steve Gregory (finger) — were all limited.

Here’€™s the complete report:

Did Not Practice
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee)

Limited Participation
WR Danny Amendola (groin)
CB Kyle Arrington (groin)
CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee)
S Steve Gregory (finger)
TE Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm/hamstring)
LB Brandon Spikes (knee)
CB Aqib Talib (hip)
RB Leon Washington (ankle)

Full Participation
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)
WR Matthew Slater (wrist)
RB Shane Vereen (wrist)

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Report: Gene Steratore will work as referee for Patriots-Broncos … again

11.21.13 at 1:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Gene Steratore will work as the referee for Sunday’s Patriots-Broncos contest, according to our friends at Football Zebras.

This will be the second Patriots game of the 2013 season for Steratore and his crew — they served as the officials for Patriots-Bengals on Oct. 6 in Cincinnati. The 50-year-old Steratore, who also works as a Division 1 men’€™s college basketball referee, has worked as an NFL official since 2003.

An interesting note: Sunday night will mark the third straight game Steratore has served as ref for a Patriots-Broncos game in Foxboro. He was at Gillette with his crew on Oct. 7, 2012 for the Patriots-Broncos game, a 31-21 win for New England. He also served as an official for the 2011 divisional playoff between the Patriots and Denver at Gillette Stadium (a game where New England crushed Tim Tebow and the Broncos, 45-10).

For more on Steratore’s history as an official, check out his page at Pro Football Reference.

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Michael Hoomanawanui only one missing from start of Patriots practice

11.21.13 at 12:32 pm ET
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FOXBORO — For the second straight day, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was the only player missing from the start of Patriots practice, a session held on the upper fields behind Gillette Stadium in sweats and shells. (Hoomanawanui suffered a knee injury in the loss to the Panthers.) The Patriots continue their prep work for Sunday night’s game against the Broncos in Foxboro.

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Tom Brady thinks Pats are ‘doing a little better’ spreading the wealth

11.21.13 at 12:04 pm ET
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FOXBORO — When dropping back to pass, Tom Brady has always used one principle in particular to guide his approach: Throw it to the open man.

That hasn’t always been the easiest thing to do in the first nine games as he was missing key parts of his arsenal at times, and appeared like a quarterback who sometimes tried to force the ball into narrow windows. But last Monday marked the first game he has had his full complement of receivers.

With Shane Vereen returning, Brady had Vereen, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola at his disposal, and made use of all of them. Throw in rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, and you begin to see the great potential for Brady to spread the ball around and “throw it to the open man.”

“We’€™re doing a little bit better in that sense,” Brady said. “I think our execution has gotten better over the course of the year and we have made a bunch of improvements. KT came in and what KT did the other night, I wasn’€™t sure how much he was going to play, [but he] made a couple huge plays in the game. You know, Aaron Dobson has done a great job. Julian’€™s continued to be a steady, solid, dependable player for us and then like you said Danny, Gronk, Shane. LeGarrette [Blount] ran hard, Rid [Stevan Ridley] runs hard. We’€™ve got a good group. We’€™ve got a good group. We’€™re getting better, so that is what I am excited about.”

While it may not compare on paper yet, that quartet could wind up being just as productive as Denver’s grouping of Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker.

All Brady has to do know, is start spreading the wealth and hope his receiving corps can stay on the field.

Thirteen different receivers have caught passes from Brady this season, led by Edelman’s 52 for 500 yards. How diversified is the passing game now? Vereen led all receivers on Monday with eight catches on 11 targets for 65 yards.

“Julian has had some production outside. Danny’€™s had good production when he’€™s been in there,” Brady added. “We’€™re trying to spread it around to find different guys. Typically whoever is open gets it. I think that spot has always been big in our offense. The tight end spot has always been a productive spot. But yeah, I think we overall can all do a better job. We’€™re going to need to going forward, this week especially. All those spots: the slot spot, the tailback spot, this is a team where we know we’€™re going to need to score some points.”

If you add catch totals of Amendola and Edelman, you get 81 catches for 841 yards but only three touchdowns. Welker enters Sunday with 61 catches for 648 yards but triple the number of touchdowns of Amendola and Edelman combined with nine.

“I haven’€™t really thought about it ‘€“ I haven’€™t put too much into that or evaluated that spot,” Brady said when asked to compare the Patriots and Broncos slot positions. “I’€™d say our offense right now is very different than it’€™s ever been in the past. Everything that we do has a different feel to it. We’€™ve had so many new players, like every team has new players, but we have a lot of new players. We have different schemes; we’€™re trying to find different things that work. For the first time last week, we basically had guys healthy so we don’€™t even know what we’€™re good at at this point. We’€™re trying to figure out ‘€“ we only scored 20 points so whatever we did couldn’€™t have been that good. We’€™re going to try to find ways to score more points than that this week.”

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Read More: Danny Amendola, New England Patriots, nfl, Rob Gronkowski

Bill Belichick on S&H: ‘We really moved on’ from controversial loss to Panthers

11.21.13 at 10:58 am ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick  joined Salk & Holley on Wednesday afternoon to discuss New England’s 24-20 loss to Carolina on Monday, as well as the team’s upcoming game against Peyton Manning and the Broncos on Sunday night.

New England is coming off a heartbreaking loss to the red-hot Panthers, who now have won six games in a row. Cam Newton was particularly impressive in the victory, as the No. 1 pick of the 2011 draft threw for 209 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 62 yards on seven carries. The Patriots took a 20-17 lead with a little over six minutes left in the game, but it would not hold, as Newton orchestrated a late drive that led to a touchdown with 59 seconds remaining, giving the Panthers a 24-20 advantage.

“[Carolina] did a good job. I think more of the focus is on us, the things that we just need to do better, coach better, execute better,” Belichick said. “Obviously, third down is an area that we need to improve in defensively.”

Monday’s game ended in controversy, as the Patriots attempted a last-second comeback on the Carolina 18-yard line. After driving down the field in the last minute of play, Tom Brady fired a pass into the end zone, where it was intercepted by Panthers safety Robert Lester. A flag was thrown, as it looked like Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly was holding Rob Gronkowski, but the officials then ruled that there was no penalty, preserving the win for Carolina.

“We really moved on from that game situation,” Belichick said. “[We’re] just trying to focus on Denver and turn the page. Nothing we can do about that game now.”

The schedule does not get any easier for the Patriots, as they will host the 9-1 Broncos, who boast an imposing offense that has averaged 39.8 points per game. The key factor in Denver’s offensive explosion has undoubtedly been Manning, who is posting one of the best stat lines of his Hall of Fame career.

The 37-year-old quarterback leads the NFL in yards (3,572) and touchdowns (34) while only throwing six interceptions. Manning is projected to throw an astonishing 54 touchdowns this season, which would break the single-season record of 50 set by Brady during the 2007-08 season.

“He’s pretty accomplished,” Belichick said of Manning. “I think he’s had a great career and has played at a very high level for a long time and he continues to do that, so his execution, his judgment, management of the team, the clock situations, recognizing defenses, audible and all of those things are at an extremely high level, as well as his accuracy and mechanics and so forth. He’s very good and continues to be. He’s been at that level for a long time. It’s hard to probably go year to year and find any kind of major changes in his overall body of work. … He’s very consistent.”

To hear the interview, go to the Salk & Holley audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at

Read More: Bill Belichick, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski

Could Rob Gronkowski have made the play? ESPN ‘Sports Science’ says yes

11.21.13 at 12:58 am ET
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ESPN’s “Sports Science” makes the case that Rob Gronkowski could have made that catch at the end of Monday’s game against the Panthers. Take a look — some interesting stuff here.

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