FOXBOROUGH — Rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson believes there’s a good chance he’ll return to the field Sunday against the Ravens.
“I think so. I’m just going through the week. I’m just trying to progress and see how it feels during the week,” Dobson said on Thursday.
The second-round pick, who suffered a foot injury against the Broncos Nov. 24 and has missed the last three games, returned to practice last Friday, and was on the field for the first two practices this week.
Dobson has 35 catches for 492 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games, and was starting to show progress with 13 receptions for 228 yards and three scores in the three games before his injury.
During the forced break, the 22-year-old has tried to maximize his time.
“I feel like it can affect you if you let it. But I just stayed in my playbook, I tried to keep an edge,” Dobson said. “I didn’t want to fall off my playbook and lose track of my plays. So I stayed in the playbook and tried to keep on task.”
Dobson said that taking mental reps was really all he could do while he waited for his foot to get better.
“It’s a little frustrating, but I’m trying to keep my head in the right place, don’t lose track of what I’ve been doing,” he said. “I’m just trying to stay on the right track.”
While he did keep up with the offense, Dobson acknowledged that his conditioning has slipped.
The Patriots would welcome Dobson’s return, particularly in the red zone. In last Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins, they were just 1 for 4 converting touchdowns in the red zone, a sharp decline from the success they were having when Rob Gronkowski was healthy for seven games.
At 6 feet 3 inches, Dobson is the Patriots’ tallest receiver, and can win jump balls in the end zone against defensive backs. He also is the only thing close to a vertical threat they have with Gronkowski out for the season with a torn ACL.
Dobson is getting ready for the Baltimore secondary and cornerback Jimmy Smith, with whom he may get acquainted.
“He’s a good player, going to have to go out there and compete with him,” Dobson said. “I think he’s a good all-around corner. He can be physical, he can run, so I just have to be on my game.
“As receivers we have to go out there and play great — great routes, block well, so we just have to have an all-around good game.”
Nate Solder practices
Nate Solder returned to practice, four days after suffering his second concussion in as many games.
Solder was concussed against the Browns, practiced last Thursday and Friday, and played against Miami — until he took an incidental knee to the head from the Dolphins’ Cameron Wake early in the fourth quarter, which knocked him out of the game.
The left tackle did not practice on Wednesday, and the Patriots listed him as limited on Thursday.
According to NFL concussion protocol, players are not supposed to take part in contact aspects of practice when they first return.
Receiver Josh Boyce (right ankle) missed practice for the second straight day.
In addition to Solder, the Patriots listed a dozen players as limited, including Tom Brady (right shoulder), Aqib Talib (hip), Alfonzo Dennard (knee/shoulder), Kenbrell Thompkins (hip), and Dobson.
Ravens running back Ray Rice (thigh) was limited in practice after not practicing on Wednesday. Quarterback Joe Flacco (knee) was limited for the second straight day.
The Ravens are big fans of throwing deep, utilizing the speed of receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. Last season, when the teams met in Week 3, the Ravens completed seven passes of 21 or more yards. They added four more against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
“Yeah, he lets it go,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said of Flacco. “There’s some other guys, like [Pittsburgh’s] Ben Roethlisberger, who have a huge arm. I think [Flacco] has a lot of confidence in throwing to those guys, so you see him throw at least 8-10 passes down the field and giving his guys a shot. He really puts it out there.”
Even deep incompletions can sometimes work out in the Ravens’ favor. Baltimore has drawn 14 pass-interference penalties this season, totaling 272 yards, more than any team in the league. Nine of the penalties were for 17 or more yards, indicating a long attempt.
For comparison, Patriots opponents have been flagged for pass interference 11 times for 180 yards, with seven going for 15 or more yards.