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Patriots center Ryan Wendell returns to practice

Ryan Wendell returned to practice on Monday, spending some time with the second unit.Charles Krupa/file/AP

FOXBOROUGH — For 2½ weeks — as the Patriots beat Buffalo in Week 2 and crushed Jacksonville in Week 3 — center Ryan Wendell was forced to sit out, following what he called “the protocol” as he recovered from what the team described as an “illness.”

What, exactly, kept the seventh-year offensive lineman out of action remains unclear, but Wendell returned to the practice field Monday, the Patriots’ first football activity after their bye week. Wendell’s recovery meant New England had full attendance at practice.

“It just feels good to do your job,” Wendell said. “You don’t want to get paid to do nothing.


“We all work hard to try to contribute to the team. You can’t do that when you’re not playing, so it feels good to get out there at practice. Every rep you take, that’s one another guy can rest or another rep you can get working with the guy next to you.”

Wendell also was inactive in Week 1, so he has yet to take a snap this season — the longest he’s had to wait as a pro to do so. In his absence, undrafted rookie David Andrews seemingly has entrenched himself as the starting center. Wendell worked with the second team during at least the beginning of practice Monday.

Was he limited?

“No, I don’t think so. I didn’t feel limited,” Wendell said. “I don’t know. You probably have to ask [coach Bill Belichick] about that, if he thought I was limited or not. I just went out there and did everything they asked me to do.”

Questioned again about his missed time, Wendell was coy.

“I spent time following the protocol the trainers put in front of me,” Wendell said. “I wasn’t ready to go. So just say illness, and that’s passed now. So, moving forward.”


Hicks joins mix

A few days and one practice into his time in New England, Akiem Hicks characterized his new life as a Patriot as “bunches of fun.”

Hicks — a 6-foot-5-inch, 324-pound defensive end — came over in a bye-week trade with the Saints for tight end Michael Hoomanawanui .

It is the latest step in a football journey that has seen Hicks cover a lot of terrain. He began at LSU but never got on the field, then played college ball at the University of Regina in Canada. He ended up back in Louisiana when the Saints took him in the third round of the 2012 draft.

After being a mainstay in 2013 and ’14 — playing two-thirds of the team’s defensive snaps while accruing 6.5 sacks and 56 tackles — Hicks saw his time on the field decrease through three games this season, playing only half the snaps. He had no sacks or tackles, just two assists.

Hicks said he hoped this trade will help him take “my step forward.”

“Back to playing football,” Hicks said. “For me, it’s all about moving forward and getting into my new team and focusing on what I need to do here.

“It’s always a positive when a team [welcomes] you into their building with open arms. I definitely take it as a positive, and I look forward to my time here.”

Hicks acknowledged that learning a new scheme and playbook is not a one-day endeavor. It’ll be a process, but he said he’ll get there.


“You can’t take everything in one day,” Hicks said. “I look forward to how we get me involved.”

Williams is ‘at home’

The trade of Hoomanawanui could be perceived as a vote of confidence for tight end Michael Williams.

Williams, however, doesn’t see it that way.

“I don’t take it as anything. I take it as a business, a move they made,” Williams said. “I don’t take it as a vote of confidence or anything for myself. I come in here and work every day, and I’m going to keep doing that.”

Williams has enjoyed doing just that. He said being with the Patriots feels “more at home,” a sentiment that stems from a couple of factors.

First, there is the return to tight end, a position Williams played all his life until Detroit moved him to tackle last season. Williams embraced the return, especially as a blocker.

“This is more natural for me,” he said. “Anybody in the NFL wants to be natural. You don’t want to try to be something you’re not.”

The Alabama grad said he sees the similarities between Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban and Belichick. That relationship dates back to the early 1990s in Cleveland, when Saban was Belichick’s defensive coordinator.

“From practice to the conditioning afterward to the day after games — it’s almost all the same,” Williams said. “Saban took a lot of chunks from Bill, it seems like. It’s run the same way, from the top to the bottom.”

Tim Healey can be reached at timothy.healey@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @timbhealey.