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Signs are hopeful on Danny Amendola playing Sunday

FOXBOROUGH — Danny Amendola hosted a large contingent of media at his locker Wednesday and then went out and practiced — signs the Patriots receiver is poised to return for Sunday's home game against the Eagles.

Amendola suffered a left knee injury in the Week 11 win over the Bills and missed last Sunday's loss in Denver.

"I'll get out there today and run around and know more, but I feel good,'' said Amendola, who was listed as limited at practice. "I can't put a number on it, or a percentage, but I feel OK to go out there today and run around.''


A return by Amendola would be a huge boost for an offense that will be without its top two pass catchers in Julian Edelman (61 catches, 692 yards) and Rob Gronkowski (57, 931). Amendola is third on the list with 49 grabs for 520 yards.

He's also among the league's top return men.

Amendola was hurt at the end of 41-yard catch-and-run against the Bills.

"I just banged my knee on the ground,'' he said. "Somebody got on my back and hit my knee on the ground.''

Amendola was in for the following play, James White's touchdown run, and a punt return (he didn't field it) before exiting.

"I didn't think it was bad at first and then I couldn't run, turn over my legs at a high rate, so I knew I was going to have to [shut it down],'' said Amendola. "I wasn't going to hobble around out there and get killed.''

Nobody would be happier to have Amendola back than Tom Brady.

"Well, that would be great,'' said the quarterback. "We'll see how that goes throughout the week. Danny always tells me that. He always feels good. He's a tough guy. Danny is a warrior, man.''


Johnson checks in

Another player who hopes to boost the Patriots offense is newcomer Damaris Johnson, who brings versatility as a receiver (mostly from the slot), a runner, and a returner.

The 5-foot-8-inch, 175-pounder is an elusive runner who catches the ball quickly and will make yards after the catch, averaging 5.9 last season with the Texans.

"He's done a number of different things, has some versatility offensively and played at different positions, returned kicks, was at Houston,'' said coach Bill Belichick. "Hopefully there's some familiarity with our offensive system and what we do, a little bit of carryover when you bring a guy in the middle of the season, not that that's an overriding factor but it certainly doesn't, hopefully, hurt. Hopefully it helps.''

The Texans are coached by Bill O'Brien, who previously served as offensive coordinator in New England.

Johnson, who played for the Eagles his first two seasons, has a similar skill set to Edelman's and could be used to help bolster the ground game, as he is familiar with running the jet sweeps that Edelman has been so successful at. He had five rushes for 19 yards for Houston last season. He averaged a whopping 8.7 yards per carry in college at Tulsa, rushing 122 times for 1,062 yards.

"It was mostly jet sweeps,'' said Johnson. "I got some [yards] out of the backfield, but those are some things I can do that I did at that level. I actually did it at Philadelphia when I was there, also. I think I could do a little bit of that if they asked me to.''


The other newcomer, 5-7, 195-pound running back Trey Williams, who was claimed from Cowboys, was not spotted at the media portion of practice but reportedly was at the complex taking his physical.

Williams was originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M by the Redskins before being released and grabbed by the Cowboys. He has yet to play in an NFL game.

"He can catch the ball out of the backfield, return kicks, and can run the ball as well,'' said Belichick. "So he has some versatility as a running back, as a receiver, and as a returner.

"He's a young player, hasn't really played, but it's not a position we have a lot of depth in right now.''

Hightower practices

The biggest surprise at practice was the presence of linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who suffered a sprained MCL against the Broncos. Hightower, listed as limited, was wearing a brace but didn't appear hobbled. He walked without a noticeable limp before practice in the locker room, where he declined a request to speak with reporters . . . Gronkowski (knee), Edelman (foot), defensive tackle Dominique Easley (ankle), and cornerback Justin Coleman (hand) missed practice. Coleman's absence was a surprise as he was at his locker, in cleats, and said he was "doing better.'' Also limited were Patrick Chung (foot), Jamie Collins (illness), and Michael Williams (knee) . . . The Patriots re-signed receiver Chris Harper to the practice squad. Defensive tackle Kelsey Quarles also joined the practice squad.


Pete and repeat

Belichick was asked about the NFL's decision to have referee Pete Morelli's seven-member crew reassigned to the Patriots game this week after being taken off the Colts-Steelers prime-time game. "We've had Pete's crew twice this year already and really haven't had any problems with them — once in the preseason and once in the regular season,'' said Belichick. "I thought in terms of the communication and all the things on the field, there wasn't an issue with them.'' Of the officiating crews in general, the coach said, "Those groups, they're professional, and I think overall they do a pretty good job. Not perfect, like all of us.'' . . . Belichick didn't appear happy when asked about the team and the Gronkowski family issuing a joint statement Tuesday on the tight end's condition. "Just trying to do everything we can to help you out," he said. "Sorry if you're offended by that. Just trying to be cooperative and help you out. So, if that's a problem just let me know." Asked a followup about whether he knew in advance that Gronkowski would be releasing a video on Twitter regarding the injury, the coach said: "We did what we did. If you have any other questions, you really should take it up with our public relations department.'' . . . Asked to comment on Gronkowski's tweet that he agrees he's being targeted by officials for offensive pass interference, Belichick said he was "focused on Philadelphia." Gronkowski has been flagged five times for OPI. That's more than any other team.


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