FOXBORO — Danny Woodhead  injured his left thumb on the Patriots’ first offensive snap of the game Sunday. But Bill Belichick  indicated that the running back could have returned had the Patriots needed him later.
‘Danny was examined and back on the sideline for the remainder of the game,” Belichick said during Monday’s conference call. “Had we needed to use him, he would have been available to go back in there.”
Woodhead left the field and went to the Patriots locker room and was fitted for a brace on his left hand. He returned and was spotted catching passes on the sideline from Ryan Mallett  at the half. He did not return in the second half.
Belichick said even though he could’ve returned Sunday, the team now needs to examine him closely this week and doctors will have to clear him before joining the team in on-field preparations for the Ravens on Sunday in the AFC championship.
“Now that we are into a new week, we will re-address the whole situation and try to get a good feel of what he would and wouldn’t be available to do, and how functional he would be doing it. So I would say that’s something we’ll have to look at during the week. Assuming the doctors clear him to play, which is a medical decision, then the next situation would be from a football decision, what can he do and how well can he do it? What is he, and we, comfortable with him doing in this week’s game/game-plan. That would all be determined at a later point in time.’
Shane Vereen  replaced Woodhead on the Patriots’ second play of the game and wound up scoring three touchdowns, tying a franchise playoff record.