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Signs are encouraging for Jimmy Garoppolo’s return

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

FOXBOROUGH — Jimmy Garoppolo threw at practice Wednesday, increasing the chances he’ll be under center Sunday when the undefeated Patriots host the Bills.

The quarterback suffered a sprained AC joint in his right, throwing shoulder late in the second quarter against the Dolphins in Week 2 and missed last Thursday night’s shutout win over the Texans.

Before practice, Garoppolo sounded optimistic about his recovery, but he wasn’t willing to declare himself ready for Sunday.

“Yeah, it’s coming along,’’ said Garoppolo, when asked if he has full range of motion. “You know, I’m just taking it day by day right now. Trying to get to my best of ability on Sunday . . . It’s hard to predict what you’re going to feel like in three or four days, so you just have to take it one day at a time.’’


Garoppolo, who had never had an AC sprain but had played through various football bumps and bruises, said he never felt any pressure from the team to be ready for last week’s game.

His throws to staffers during the media portion of the full-pads practice lacked their usual zip — his farthest went approximately 25 yards — but he didn’t look uncomfortable and it’s possible he ramped up the velocity later. In any case, with three more days to recover and get ready for the Bills, it was an encouraging sign.

Jacoby Brissett, who suffered a thumb injury playing in Garoppolo’s stead last Thursday, also threw at practice. Similar to Tuesday’s session, the rookie had his right thumb and wrist taped. Brissett said the injury didn’t bother him during the Houston game after big Vince Wilfork landed on him in the second half.

“No, I played with it, so I didn’t think about it,’’ said Brissett. “That’s the main thing, to not think about it.’’


Brissett completed 11 of 19 passes for 103 yards and rushed for 48 yards and a touchdown against the Texans.

Like Garoppolo, Brissett wasn’t giving any hints about who’ll be taking snaps for the 3-0 Patriots on Sunday, instead deferring to Bill Belichick.

“That’s coach’s decision,’’ said Brissett. “I can’t make that decision.’’

Both Garoppolo and Brissett were listed as limited on the injury report.

Garoppolo was scorching the Dolphins (18 of 26, 232 yards, and 3 touchdowns) when he got hurt.

“I thought the wind just got knocked out of me at first, but then it escalated from there, I guess,’’ said Garoppolo.

He said it’s a delicate balance between working to get his shoulder back to 100 percent while also preventing further injury.

“It’s a tough situation,’’ said Garoppolo, who is 42 of 59 for 496 yards and 4 TDs this season. “You just have to be smart with it. I don’t want to do too much or too little. Just got to find that comfort zone.’’

Video: Garoppolo throwing passes in practice

Garoppolo was injured when he was driven to the turf by Kiko Alonso while rolling to his right and a split second after he fired a pass to Malcolm Mitchell.

“After it’s all said and done, it’s easy to say [I should have gotten rid of the ball earlier],’’ said Garoppolo. “But it’s kind of one of those things that you’re in the heat of the game. Bottom line, I have to be smarter than that.’’


Though Tom Brady is poised to return next week after serving his four-game suspension, Garoppolo said he doesn’t feel any additional urgency to rush back sooner then he should.

“You always want to be out there. It’s part of football, it’s part of being a competitor,’’ he said. “You want to be the guy out there running the show.’’

Bills coach Rex Ryan, who described Garoppolo as “pretty good, efficient, does a nice job,’’ must prepare his team for both possibilities, though he seems more focused on the one quarterback who won’t be part of the equation Sunday.

“One thing I know is Tom Brady’s not the quarterback and I feel good about that,’’ Ryan said.

Watch: Ben Volin and Jim McBride discuss Garoppolo, Brissett, and other Patriots injuries and look ahead to the Bills

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