FOXBOROUGH - Any fears about the status of Tom Brady were allayed at around 4 p.m. yesterday, when the Patriots released their final injury report of the week and declared the quarterback probable for tomorrow’s game against the Bills.
Brady was limited in practice yesterday and Thursday, and was given a scheduled day off on Wednesday.
He hurt his left shoulder late in last Saturday’s win over the Dolphins. NFL Network reported last night that the injury is a “slight separation,’’ more commonly regarded as a sprain.
Citing a source, the report indicated that pain management is the primary issue. Given the injuries Brady has played through in the past - three cracked ribs for much of the 2009 season, and a chronic foot injury for which he underwent surgery last January - that likely won’t be much of a problem.
Coach Bill Belichick was asked a series of questions yesterday regarding Brady’s health, and not surprisingly offered little insight.
When asked what Brady was able to do at practice on Thursday, Belichick replied, “Play quarterback, the usual thing.’’
Later, Belichick was asked to assess his level of concern.
“Any player that we put out on the field I have confidence in or we wouldn’t put him out there. If they’re out there, we have confidence in them,’’ he said. “If they’re not out there, there’s either another player ahead of them or we’re not confident that they can go out there and do it. It’s as simple as that.’’
Wes Welker, listed as questionable because of a knee injury, was far less cryptic when asked if he expected both he and Brady to play the entire game. “Absolutely,’’ Welker said.
Offensive linemen Logan Mankins (knee) and Sebastian Vollmer (foot, back) were declared out for the game.
Also questionable are: Kyle Arrington (foot), Deion Branch (groin), Patrick Chung (foot), Dan Connolly (groin), Julian Edelman (back), Dane Fletcher (thumb), James Ihedigbo (shoulder), Matt Light (ankle), Devin McCourty (shoulder), Rob Ninkovich (hip), Matthew Slater (shoulder), Brandon Spikes (knee), Shane Vereen (hamstring), Brian Waters (ankle), and Tracy White (abdomen).
Playing to win When the topic of clinching the top seed in the AFC was brought up, Belichick initially said the Patriots were preparing for tomorrow’s game the same way they prepared for the first 15.
But when asked whether backup quarterback Brian Hoyer might get to see some extended playing time, as he did in last year’s regular-season finale in Buffalo, Belichick indicated that the Patriots are indeed focused on winning and securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“I think that game is a little bit different from this game relative to what the implications of the game were,’’ Belichick said. “A preseason game or a game that literally has no bearing on the standings, that’s one thing. But I wouldn’t say we’re really in the same situation this time.’’
Or, as Welker put it, “This is for the No. 1 seed, so we’re going out there and giving it all we’ve got for four quarters.’’
Welker was fined $10,000 for wearing an “unauthorized hat during his postgame interview’’ last week, according to a league spokesman.
“Thanks for warning me the other 16 weeks I wore the hat,’’ Welker tweeted.
Video clips from Welker’s other postgame interviews this season indeed show him wearing the same hat, advertising Bonk Breaker, a gluten-free, dairy-free energy bar, but this was the first time he was fined.
Missing out The Bills declared five players out for the game: wide receiver Brad Smith (hamstring), offensive linemen Kraig Urbik (knee) and Demetrius Bell (knee), tight end Mike Caussin (knee), and kicker Dave Rayner (groin) . . . The Patriots have allowed 4,407 passing yards this season, the third most in league history. The record is 4,541 by the 1995 Falcons.