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Patriots’ Tommy Kelly healthy, back in the mix

Patriots defensive end Tommy Kelly appeared five games last season.

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Patriots defensive end Tommy Kelly appeared five games last season.

FOXBOROUGH – When the Patriots signed Tommy Kelly last year, Bill Belichick was able to bring aboard a defensive tackle he’d long thought highly of, adding his veteran savvy to a line that needed depth and talent.

But the pairing of Kelly and Vince Wilfork lasted but three full games: Wilfork was injured against Atlanta in Week 4, and Kelly left the Bengals game a week later with a knee injury.

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Kelly rehabbed for three weeks, then returned to practice in the days leading up to New England’s game against the Steelers, only to surprisingly be placed on injured reserve during the Patriots’ bye week.

At the time, Belichick said it was “unfortunate” for the team and Kelly that he wouldn’t be able to finish the season; though he was in the locker room, in the weeks that followed, Kelly was unable to talk about his injury.

On Tuesday, however, he spoke after the Patriots’ first mini-camp practice, and shed a little bit of light on what happened that led to his being placed on IR.

“That was my plan,” to return, Kelly said. “That’s what I was hoping and praying for. It just didn’t work out that way. Me and the training staff, we worked hard, trying to get me back to the point where I could get in the game and stuff, but it just didn’t work out that way.”

Kelly, who had not missed a game since 2007, when he was with the Raiders, was disappointed he wasn’t part of New England’s success last season, particularly missing out on the first postseason experience of his career.

“It was just hard, coming here to help the team try to go to the next level and then get hurt,” he said. “And then to see how far we got. Not being out there to help the guys out, that was the hard part.”

Kelly said he always made himself available if a teammate had a question, but it just isn’t the same if you’re not part of the weekly gameplan.

Follow Shalise Manza Young on Twitter at shalisemyoung.
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