DETROIT — The Patriots got one starter back for their third exhibition game but were missing another, as safety Devin McCourty got his first game snaps on Thursday night, but receiver Danny Amendola sat out the 40-9 blowout loss to the Lions at Ford Field.
Amendola did not practice Monday or Tuesday because of an unknown injury, and it’s unlikely he made the trip.
Also of note, Vince Wilfork was in uniform but did not play. Wilfork worked one on one with strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash in warm-ups, including extensive stretching.
Wilfork instead played the role of coach, giving his teammates advice as they came off the field.
McCourty did not play in New England’s first two exhibition games as a precaution. He underwent offseason shoulder surgery and wore a red non-contact jersey in practice in camp before shedding it this week. He started at safety alongside Steve Gregory.
“It felt great to finally be out there with the guys,” McCourty said. “Even though it’s preseason and you can’t play for a reason, you feel like you’re missing something. It messes with you. It felt great to play.”
Dan Connolly, who also had offseason shoulder surgery, also made his preseason debut. Connolly, the starting right guard last year, was not with the top offensive line. Will Svitek, a career tackle who was forced into duty there a couple of weeks ago after the injuries to Connolly and Marcus Cannon, remained with the top unit.
Others not in uniform for the Patriots: cornerbacks Alfonzo Dennard, Ras-I Dowling, and Brandon Jones; receiver Kamar Aiken; defensive back Nate Ebner; tight end Daniel Fells; defensive linemen Justin Francis and Jermaine Cunningham; and Cannon.
Also, tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive lineman Armond Armstead, and receiver Mark Harrison, who remain on the physically unable to perform list, did not make the trip.
For the Lions, star receiver Calvin Johnson was among six players not in uniform. Johnson took part in warm-ups but the decision was made for him to sit out for a second straight game because of a knee injury.
Starting safety Louis Delmas, who has been on a limited practice schedule because of offseason knee surgery, did play for Detroit.
Tim Tebow didn’t get a chance to make amends for his poor performance against the Buccaneers. He never got off the sideline Thursday night, as Tom Brady played the entire first half and Ryan Mallett the entire second half.
Tebow, though, didn’t bat an eye when asked if he was frustrated with not playing.
“I’m a blessed individual,” he said. “Happy to be here, and whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to do.”
Tebow said he’s not frustrated, either, with his performance in the preseason. His passer rating is 17.7 after two games, with an interception and a completion percentage of 26.
“You just prepare, and what you are asked to do, you do it 100 percent with everything you have,” he said.
The Detroit fans, though, certainly seemed disappointed that Tebow didn’t play on Thursday. They began chanting his name in the fourth quarter before each Patriots drive, and the chants grew louder as the clock dwindled.
“I try not to pay attention,” Tebow said. “Obviously it was nice whenever you have support, but you just try to stay focused.”
Finally, Tebow was asked if he feels like he has improved over four weeks of training camp.
“No question,” he said.
Joseph Fauria, the nephew of former Patriots tight end Christian Fauria, is a rookie tight end with the Lions.
The younger Fauria was undrafted out of UCLA, despite his size – he’s 6 feet 7 inches – and abilities — he had 46 receptions and a team-high 12 touchdowns last fall.
He is one of six tight ends on the roster, but the depth chart lists the base offense as two receivers and two tight ends, which could increase Fauria’s chances of sticking.
It was an up-and-down night for Fauria — he scored on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Moore in the third quarter, punctuating the event with a spike that looked a lot like his uncle’s, but on the Lions’ next drive, Fauria was flagged for a chop block, costing his team 15 yards.
Gronkowski, through his family’s Gronk Nation Youth Foundation, was in Brockton Wednesday night with his father, Gordy, to present the Brockton Junior Boxers Pop Warner program with nearly $45,000 worth of helmets and shoulder pads. Facilitated by Good Sports, Dicks Sporting Goods, and the Boston-based Paul and Phyllis Fireman Foundation, the donation will help keep the program, heavily in debt, afloat . . . Tom Brady made the trip from Detroit to Ann Arbor on Thursday to address the football team at his alma Mater, Michigan. Brady went at the request of Wolverines coach Brady Hoke, who was a defensive line coach when Brady played there. It was the first time Brady had been back on campus since 2007.