FOXBOROUGH — The injuries are starting to pile up for the Patriots, with three more players added to Tuesday’s injury report and running back Shane Vereen placed on the injured reserve/designated to return list.
The start of Thursday night’s home opener against the Jets might be noteworthy because of who’s not on the field instead of who is in uniform. Especially on offense.
By placing Vereen on the IR/DTR list, it means the running back will miss at least the next eight games. He injured his wrist early in Sunday’s win against the Bills, but still managed to gain 159 all-purpose yards, including the first 100-yard rushing game of his career (14 carries, 101 yards). He had surgery Monday, with initial reports speculating that he’d miss four weeks or so.
That timeline has now doubled, at least. With the IR/DFR designation, Vereen won’t be able to practice until after Week 7, and won’t be able to play until after Week 9. The Patriots have a bye in Week 10, so the earliest Vereen could play in a game would be Nov. 18, a Monday night game at Carolina.
Running back Stevan Ridley (shoulder), and cornerbacks Alfonzo Dennard (ankle) and Marquice Cole (hamstring) participated fully in Tuesday’s no-pads, non-contact walkthrough workout on the grass fields behind Gillette Stadium. But it was the first time they’ve appeared this season on the injury report.
The Patriots could be getting thin at running back. With Vereen out and three others on the injury report — Ridley, Brandon Bolden (knee), and Leon Washington (thigh) — the only healthy backs are LeGarrette Blount and James Develin.
Receiver/tight end could be another area of concern. Rob Gronkowski (forearm/back) returned to practice only last week after missing the entire training camp, and isn’t expected to play against the Jets. The availability of Danny Amendola, who had a team-high 10 catches for 104 yards Sunday at Buffalo, is also in serious doubt because of a groin injury he aggravated against the Bills. He took part in Tuesday’s walkthrough, and strolled through the locker room during the portion open to the media.
All told, there are four running backs (including Vereen), two receivers, and two tight ends on the Patriots’ injury report.
He will be needed
With Vereen out, the Patriots might have no choice but to call on Ridley, assuming he’s healthy enough to play. Ridley was benched after his second-quarter fumble was returned by the Bills for a touchdown.
Sitting him might not be an option now.
“Yeah, I talked to Stevan,” coach Bill Belichick said. “Look, every player has the same responsibility every week: to be ready to play, to be ready to go. That’s their job.
“They can’t control coaches’ decisions. They can control their preparation, they control their performance when they’re in the game. That’s what a player’s job is.”
Muhammad Wilkerson, a defensive lineman for the Jets, went on WFAN this week and said, “We’re going to go to Foxborough and get this win. We’re going to be 2-0.”
His coach, Rex Ryan, didn’t mind the bravado. At least not publicly, when speaking to reporters Tuesday in a conference call.
“You know what? I think you’re never going to win unless you believe you can. And that’s it,” Ryan said.
“Do we recognize that it’s a huge challenge? Yeah, I guess. We’re going in on a short week playing against arguably one of the best teams in the NFL with the best coach and, if [Tom Brady] is not the best quarterback, he’s right there with Peyton Manning.
“We know what we’re going up against, but I’ll be danged if we’re going out there to lose a game. We’re coming up there to win the game.”
With some personnel uncertainty on offense — and 10 of the 11 defensive starters back from last year — the Patriots might need to win games early in the season with defense.
Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork doesn’t look at it that way.
“We play as a team,” he said. “We win as a team, lose as a team, and when one side is kind of down, everybody else picks up the slack.
“There’s three phases of the game: offense, defense, special teams, and if you can get two of those teams to pull together and help the [other] phase, you’ll be in a good spot.”
Boyce is all ears
Rookie receiver Josh Boyce is still waiting for his first NFL reception, but he said he’s working hard to develop chemistry with Brady. According to the fourth-round draft pick from Texas Christian, there’s nobody better to be learning from.
“He expects you to do the right thing, no matter who you are,” said Boyce. “Any receiver, he expects you to be where he wants you to be at the right time, so you have to be there.
“I think I’m doing pretty good with it, picking up on where he wants me to be, timing, things like that. I think I’m doing pretty good.”
Boyce was targeted twice by Brady in Sunday’s season opener but had no catches.
“We got the W, that was the most important thing,” Boyce said.
On Thursday night, he’ll get his first look at a rivalry that he’s only seen on television so far. His teammates have filled him in on that, plus how best to deal with a short work week.
“Just stay on top of things,” Boyce said. “Your body is sore, it’s a short week, so we have to do all those little things: Prepare, take care of my body, extra playbook [time].”
To replace Vereen on the 53-man active roster, the Patriots re-signed tight end Matthew Mulligan. He originally was signed by the team Sept. 3, and was released two days later. With Gronkowski and Zach Sudfeld (hamstring) dealing with injuries, Michael Hoomanawanui was the only healthy tight end before Mulligan’s signing. The Patriots also announced a pair of practice squad transactions: They re-signed defensive lineman A.J. Francis and released receiver Quentin Sims . . . Tedy Bruschi will be honored at halftime of Thursday night’s game. Bruschi was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame over the summer, along with Gil Santos, who will serve as an honorary team captain for the game . . . The Patriots have swept the Jets each of the last two seasons.