FOXBOROUGH — Bill Belichick smiled slightly when asked about the return of David Andrews, who is poised to be smack dab in the center of the offensive line Sunday against Jets after missing two games with a concussion.
“Always good to get good players back,’’ the coach said. “So, we never turn that down.’’
Andrews’s return likely generated a lot of smiles around the Patriots campus. He was concussed after taking a blindside hit late in the Bears game Oct. 24.
Matthew Judon said Andrews is one of the most respected players in the building.
“He always gets up and that’s one thing you can respect,” Judon said Thursday. “He’s always going to get up and play the next play, good play [or] bad play or indifferent. If the offense is booming or if the offense is kind of struggling, he’s always going to keep a positive mind-set and have a smile on his face and you can respect that about a guy when you know what you’re going to get from him every day.
“And I think that’s one thing that I think everybody around here loves about David Andrews. You never see him, like, really upset. We all go through the emotions, but you never see him hanging in his head and you won’t. Like when they’re doing good, he’ll show emotion in a positive way, but he’ll come right back down, get on the bench and correct the offensive line and continue to talk about things they could have done better on that.’’
Andrews’s return could help galvanize an offensive line that has multiple moving parts in recent weeks. In addition to Andrews’s absence, both Marcus Cannon (now on injured reserve) and Yodny Cajuste have started at right tackle over Isaiah Wynn, and Wynn has subbed in for left guard Cole Strange in back-to-back games.
It’s unrealistic to expect Andrews to be the panacea for everything going on in the trenches, but his leadership, ruggedness, and elite presnap recognition and communication skills will be invaluable against New York’s fierce front seven.
Mac Jones said Andrews’s experience stands out.
“David’s a great leader on our team,” said Jones, who has been sacked 10 times the past two games. “He’s played against a lot of different defenses [and] played on some really good teams, so he provides that positive energy and obviously is a great football player, but it’s a lot of other things, too.
“He’s kind of the bell cow of that whole [line]. He does a great job, really happy with him and everybody else, too. They’re doing a really good job just trying to work together and get better at individual techniques. That’s what I even noticed [Wednesday], is just the little things that guys are trying to work through and all that is really important.’’
Against the Colts two weeks ago, the Patriots had 10 plays go for negative yards — not including kneeldowns.
Andrews believes mental mistakes have contributed to a lot of the breakdowns, particularly presnap penalties that can sap momentum.
“That’s the biggest thing, [we have] to cut down on bad football, negative plays,’’ he said. “It’s hard to say you want to do something when you’re playing behind the sticks and hurting yourself. I’ve never called a game before, but it’s hard to call a game when it’s second and 5 and the next thing you know, it’s third and 12. Or second and 5 to second and 11. That’s the big thing: We’ve got to stop hurting ourselves.’’
Starting corner Jonathan Jones was the only player to miss Thursday’s practice as he deals with an illness. Jones is tied for the club lead in interceptions (2) and forced fumbles (2). Rookie defensive lineman DaMarcus Mitchell returned in a limited capacity after missing Monday and Wednesday because of an illness. A half-dozen others were limited on the participation report: receiver DeVante Parker (knee); defensive lineman Christian Barmore (knee); linebackers Josh Uche (hamstring) and Anfernee Jennings (back); safety Kyle Dugger (ankle); and punter Jake Bailey (back) … For the Jets, receiver Corey Davis (knee), guard Nate Herbig (shin), and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (elbow) did not practice for the second straight day … The Patriots signed offensive lineman Hunter Thedford to the practice squad. Thedford started as a defensive end at Southern Methodist in 2016 before switching to tight end. He finished his college career at Utah and signed as an undrafted free agent with the Lions in 2021 but didn’t make the club. He played for the USFL’s Pittsburgh Maulers last season and had 13 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. The 6-foot-6-inch, 260-pounder will now try his hand at offensive line.