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Patriots thoughts: Going deeper on injury report; deconstructing Deion Branch’s possible return

09.07.12 at 12:47 am ET
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Four Patriots-related thoughts to wrap up Thursday:

1. The barometer for whether or not someone will be able to play on Sunday is usually their appearance on the practice field on Wednesday and Thursday. And with only running back Shane Vereen missing from both practices means the Patriots will be pretty healthy heading into the game against the Titans. Two things stick out, particularly about the offensive line: One, the return of Nick McDonald (who was back in shorts and shells with the rest of the team on Thursday, but limited) gives the Patriots eight healthy offensive linemen heading into Sunday’s game. And two, despite the fact that he’s been dogged by back problems all summer, it’s interesting that right tackle Sebastian Vollmer hasn’t been on the injury report all week. That should mean that the big German should be good to go for Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Titans.

2. This is something we’ve Tweeted on a few occasions over the last week, but it bears repeating: it certainly indicates that Deion Branch is going to find his way back to the Patriots at some point, maybe sooner rather than later. He hasn’t drawn much (if any) interest around the league, he’s Tweeting like someone who doesn’t have a care in the world (and not to be accused of being a Twitter sleuth, but as of early Friday morning, his bio still says he’s a wide receiver with the Patriots) and he still has a full locker in the New England locker room — one week after he was released. I suppose he could always decide to retire, but that seems like a remote possibility.

3. On the topic of former Patriots, the fact that the Raiders kicked the tires on wide receiver Jabar Gaffney and decided against signing him (preferring instead to go with a former Oakland receiver in Derek Hagan) means that Gaffney is likely pretty dinged up, so much so that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him on the shelf for an extended period of time. (For what it’s worth, the Raiders also looked at a few other receivers, including former Patriot Tiquan Underwood.) As for Dan Koppen and Brian Hoyer, it’s my understanding they haven’t drawn much interest around the league.

4. While some around the league have been very public in their feelings about replacement referees, the Patriots were mostly mum on the topic on Thursday, with the best line coming from veteran lineman Logan Mankins, who said that “we’ve had the normal officials out there and they make bad calls.” He added: “Every time they call a hold on me it’€™s never a hold. They must just get my number confused with someone else.” Keep an eye on this site for the latest updates on referee assignments and biographical information for the Patriots-Titans game.

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