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Patriots have a true veteran leader in long snapper Joe Cardona

US Naval Academy graduate Joe Cardona is in his seventh season as the Patriots' long snapper.Greg M. Cooper/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH — Joe Cardona provides veteran leadership in the truest sense of the word.

The Patriots long snapper and Naval Academy graduate is a Lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserve, and on Veterans Day Cardona addressed his teammates about the meaning of the day.

The message hit home with the players, according to receiver Kendrick Bourne.

“We all just listened with open hearts, man, listening to what they’ve got to say,” he said. “And even [receiver] Malcolm [Perry], he’s with the Navy, too, so just having guys in the room to explain exactly how things go, is just dope. It gives you kind of an inside [look], it kind of warms your heart about what they do for us.”

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Cardona said he felt privileged to have the floor in front of his fellow players and coaches.

“One message I tried to convey is that it’s been a tough year for a lot of military members and a lot of veterans,” he said. “It’s been a tough year for everybody overall, but now’s the time that we need to rally around those that have done so much for us. And done some extremely difficult things especially when our country seems so divided. That’s one group of people that we should be uniting behind.”

Cardona, who is in his seventh NFL season, cited the parallels of his passions when it comes to working together.

“Unity is central to everything we do in the military and central to everything we do on a football team,” he said. “Common struggle, mutual opponent or enemy, in a common mission are absolutely integral to really coming together to accomplish those goals and ultimately have victory on a friendly field of strife or one that is otherwise.

Joe Cardona is a Naval Academy graduate.Stew Milne/Associated Press

“But realistically, we all have to take an audit in the way in which we go about our own daily lives and the way we treat people. I think that if we can look at ourselves and say, ‘All right, what would those men and women that we trust our national security to, how would they go about this issue? How would they treat their fellow service member? How would they treat their fellow American? How would we treat our teammate if there was an issue that came about?’ That’s something that we can all learn from, if we take that into our day-to-day lives.”

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Cardona touched on how Veterans Day is a good reminder to reach out to those who have served the country.

“I hope that everybody out there takes some time to reflect, takes some time to talk to their family members, talk to their friends that served, and if you’re a veteran or a service member, reach out to someone you served with, someone that, it’s just a good excuse to say hello and check in and see how someone’s doing during tough times,” he said.

Thin at running back

The Patriots were still without four key contributors, including their top two ground threats, at Thursday’s practice.

Running backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, as well as returner/receiver Gunner Olszewski, remain in the league’s concussion protocol, and linebacker Jamie Collins is dealing with an ankle injury.

There’s still time for Harris, Stevenson, and Olszewski to clear the five-phase protocol with Friday’s practice and Saturday’s walkthrough key timing points. The Patriots haven’t worked out any free agent backs or receivers this week, a sign of optimism that the trio could answer the bell for Sunday’s home game against the Browns.

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Will Rhamondre Stevenson be OK to play Sunday?Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Linebacker Chase Winovich returned to practice for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury against the Cowboys in Week 6. Offensive tackle Trent Brown (calf) practiced for the second straight day. Winovich and Brown remain on injured reserve and don’t need to be listed on the practice report.

Nine Patriots were limited at the shells-and-sweats session: linebackers Dont’a Hightower (ankle), Kyle Van Noy (groin), and Ja’Whaun Bentley (ribs); cornerback Jalen Mills (thigh); tight end Jonnu Smith (shoulder); receiver N’Keal Harry (knee); guard Shaq Mason (abdomen); punter Jake Bailey (right knee); and kicker Nick Folk (left knee).

Judon had a good reason

Linebacker Matthew Judon returned to practice after missing Wednesday following the birth of his third child, daughter Azayda Joy … The Patriots worked out punters Nolan Cooney, Sterling Hofrichter, and Corliss Waitman. It’s something to keep an eye on with Bailey on the injury report … The Patriots-Browns game will be broadcast nationally in Germany, giving Jakob Johnson’s family a chance to gather around the TV. Johnson, who will have a cousin in the stands Sunday — the first time a relative has gotten to see him play live with the Patriots — said he’s been “pushing” for the club to be chosen to play in his native country … With Cam Newton signing a one-year deal with the Panthers worth up to $10 million — more realistically it’ll be a $6 million pact with $4.5 million guaranteed and a $1.5 million roster bonus — the Patriots will receive a $1.5 million credit on next season’s salary cap because of offset language … Lawrence Guy and his wife, Andrea, are hosting a baby shower Friday at Gillette Stadium for local mothers in need. For more information go to lawrenceguyfoundation.org.

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Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him @globejimmcbride.