FOXBOROUGH — Stephon Gilmore fully expects to be back in action when the Patriots travel to Denver for Sunday night’s matchup with the reeling Broncos.
“Yes sir,’’ Gilmore said Monday afternoon when asked if he’d be good to go after sitting out the last three games because of a concussion.
The cornerback surprisingly popped up on the injury report Oct. 13, more than a week after the Patriots beat the Buccaneers in Tampa in a Thursday night game Oct. 5 and just two days before a game against the Jets. It’s unclear when Gilmore was hurt, but he did bang heads with receiver Mike Evans in Tampa.
The Buccaneers game was a turning point for Gilmore after he had struggled early in the season, and that made the concussion all the more frustrating.
“Yeah,” he said. “But it’s what you sign up for. It’s part of the game, injuries. You just got to find a way to bounce back and take it day by day.’’
Asked if the concussion symptoms crept up on him — he wasn’t on the injury report earlier in the week of Oct. 13 — or whether he had cleared concussion protocol, Gilmore declined to elaborate.
“I don’t want to talk about injuries in the media, but I just listened to the doctors and they made the best decision for me,’’ he said.
Gilmore, who has practiced the last two weeks, said he has done his best to stay involved despite being inactive on game days, and he believes the defense has gotten better “game by game, and the more games we play, the better we’ll get.’’
He also said he’s been studying film to stay “locked in, so when I come back, I don’t miss a beat.’’
Gilmore spent his bye week time with his wife and children.
“It was good — I don’t know if they gave me a break, especially my son,” he said. “But it was fun and I needed that time and I’m looking forward to the second half of the season.’’
Defensive end Trey Flowers was happy to get home to Alabama for some rest and family time over the bye week. He needed it.
Flowers has played 91 percent of the defensive snaps this season, nearly double the 54 percent he played last season, his second in the league but his first with meaningful playing time. Flowers missed close to his entire rookie year because of a shoulder injury.
“It’s a long season, it’s a tough game in the NFL, so you’re going to have some lumps and bruises along the way,” he said. “To get another, extra week under your belt and kind of, like I said, get refreshed and things like that is very important.”
Flowers, a fourth-round pick in 2015, has turned into a valuable player in the Patriots defense. Particularly without Dont’a Hightower on the field, Flowers is one of the more disruptive players in a front seven that doesn’t have a lot of high-end talent. Flowers’s development has earned him more playing time, though there are more snaps available this year with Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich, and Chris Long all gone.
“There’s been years, again, where our ends have never come off the field,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “There’s been years where we’ve had the ability to move guys in and out of positions based on things that we’re doing, and certainly what we’re trying to do is just based on the game plan for that week.”
With 3½ sacks this season, Flowers is on target to match his seven sacks from last season. In some ways, that means he’s collecting big plays less efficiently, though Flowers has also been a critical helper in big moments that haven’t been marked on the stat sheet. For instance, he forced Falcons receiver Taylor Gabriel to go a bit deeper on a fourth-and-1 jet sweep attempt at the goal line that linebacker Kyle Van Noy ultimately stopped in the backfield.
Even so, Flowers said that he can’t think about conserving energy while he’s in a game. He needs to keep his body well-conditioned so that his motor doesn’t slow over the course of 60 minutes.
“If I’m out there, I just see it as an opportunity for me to make a play,” Flowers said. “As far as staying out there, being out there a lot of snaps, you know, that goes into preparation throughout the week.
“Doing a little extra cardio, extra things that kind of allow you to stay in shape and continue with a high motor even through the long games and a lot of snaps.”
Credit 49ers general manager John Lynch for leaving no stone unturned.
According to Fox Sports’s Jay Glazer, Lynch was originally shot down when he asked Bill Belichick about acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo, so Lynch inquired about the other quarterback on the Patriots roster.
That would be a Bay Area native named Tom Brady.
According to Glazer, Belichick first asked if Lynch was serious, then laughed and quickly rebuffed the idea.
Lynch eventually got his man in Garoppolo.
Can’t blame the guy for trying.