FOXBOROUGH — As expected, running back LeGarrette Blount, cornerback Devin McCourty, and linebacker Jonathan Freeny were absent from the media portion of Patriots practice Wednesday afternoon. Blount officially was placed on injured reserve, the team announced Wednesday.
What was unexpected was how crisp and quick receiver Julian Edelman looked in his second practice (but first in full pads) since from suffering a broken left foot against the Giants Nov. 15. Edelman had surgery a day later.
Edelman, as he often does when healthy, led the team during wind sprints (which is a bit of a misnomer because they're not done at full speed) and looked sharp during receiving drills. He did not have a noticeable limp and didn't appear to be favoring his left foot. He was listed as limited in practice.
Edelman suffered a Jones fracture, which occurs at the base of the fifth metatarsal bone, the long bone on the outside of the foot that is connected to the pinkie toe.
The prognosis was Edelman would miss from six weeks to the rest of the season. He is just over four weeks removed from surgery, having missed games against the Bills, Broncos, Eagles, and Texans.
All three of the missing players were hurt during New England's win in Houston Sunday night. According to a league source, Blount will miss the rest of the season with a hip injury. McCourty (ankle) and Freeny (hand) are expected back before the regular-season ends Jan. 3 in Miami.
Edelman was one of eight Patriots limited in practice Wednesday. The others were WR Danny Amendola (knee), TE Scott Chandler (knee), S Patrick Chung (foot), CB Justin Coleman (hand), LB Dont'a Hightower (knee), OL Josh Kline (shoulder), and WR/special teamer Matthew Slater (stinger).
Tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee) and defensive end Chandler Jones (abdomen) were full participants.
Grissom next man up?
On Wednesday, the Patriots put defensive lineman Dominique Easley on IR following his thigh injury Sunday night against the Texans. It's the second time in as many years Easley's season ended with a mid-December injury.
"It's a tough break for Dom," Belichick said. "Just kind of coming off the ball and had an injury there. It's unfortunate. We'll just have to find somebody else, find other guys to step in and take that spot."
Belichick was his usual vague self when discussing Easley's replacement in the rotation — "Every player is different, so we'll see how it goes," he said — but one lineman who stands to potentially benefit is rookie Geneo Grissom.
Grissom, the Patriots' third-round pick in last spring's draft, has been toward the bottom of the D-line depth chart, playing in about 11 percent of the team's defensive snaps (plus one-quarter of special teams plays). Easley played in about one-third of the team's defensive snaps, so there is playing time to be had.
Grissom was a healthy scratch against Houston, but on Wednesday he donned a black jersey indicating he was one of the team's practice players of the week.
"Nobody works harder than he does. He puts in a lot of time and is a very dedicated athlete and just keeps getting better," Belichick said. "Geneo is obviously a young player, works hard, has a good skill set to do a lot of different things and he's done that. He's been outside to inside, been involved in the kicking game, which for a defensive lineman you don't always see a lot of that. He's continuing to make progress."
Tom Brady doesn't want to keep talking about Donald Trump.
The Patriots quarterback, who has developed a friendship with the GOP presidential candidate over the last decade and a half, faced criticism this week following his comments on WEEI regarding Trump's campaign.
Brady didn't endorse Trump, but didn't bash him, either, which was a problem for some — including the New York Daily News, which dedicated its front page Wednesday to a photo of the pair with the headline "Brady has no balls."
At Gillette Stadium, toward the end of his regular Wednesday news conference, Brady stuck to his line: He doesn't want to get involved.
"I don't think about it that much," Brady said of the criticism. "It's a tough week. I have a lot of football stuff to think about. Hopefully we can go out and beat the Titans."
Pressed further, he didn't exactly open up.
"Like I said, I'm just here to play football," Brady said.
Then he laughed and walked away. (A Patriots spokesman said "last question" before the first Trump question was asked, so Brady didn't quite abruptly cut his media session short following the inquiry.)
Brady was noncommittal during his weekly WEEI interview Tuesday.
"Can I just stay out of this debate?" Brady said. "Donald is a good friend of mine. I have known him for a long time. I support all my friends. That is what I have to say."
Brady and Trump's relationship dates to the quarterback serving as a judge for Trump's 2002 Miss USA pageant.
Comings and goings
The Patriots made a flurry of roster moves Wednesday. In addition to placing Blount on IR, they cut WR Damaris Johnson after a half-month. Combined with Tuesday's move of Easley to IR, that left three roster spots open. To fill those spots, New England signed defensive lineman Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, claimed WR Leonard Hankerson from the Falcons and OT LaAdrian Waddle from the Lions, according to multiple reports. On the practice squad, RB Trey Williams got cut. Linebacker Kevin Snyder replaced him . . . Did the Belichick household celebrate the AFC East title when the Patriots — by virtue of a Dolphins' loss — clinched it Monday night? "No," the coach said. "Just a lot of sleeping." . . . The Patriots could clinch a first-round bye this weekend. The two scenarios that will ensure that: a Patriots' win combined with a Broncos' loss, or a Patriots' win combined with a Bengals' loss and a Broncos' tie . . . With two more touchdown passes, Brady (33 TDs) will have four seasons of 35-plus touchdowns, tying him with Peyton Manning for most all time. Brady last accomplished the feat in 2011.
Brady talks injuries, offense
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady discusses the team’s numerous injuries and how he will practice with the offense.