Patriots

Patriots linebacker spot about to get a boost?

Patriots linebacker spot about to get a boost?

Patriots linebackers had perhaps their best game of the season on Sunday against the Jets, and they could be adding another layer of depth to that group very soon. 

Shea McClellin is able to begin practicing this week after sitting out the first six weeks of the regular season with an undisclosed injury. He has been on injured reserve since the end of training camp, but each team is allowed to bring back two players off of IR, and McClellin seems like a candidate.

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Players looking to come back from IR are allowed to practice after sitting for six weeks. They can play and thus count toward the active roster, after eight weeks on IR. A rule to allow players to return from IR has been in place since 2012, but this year is the first in which teams have the ability to return two players. 

McClellin was spotted in the locker room on Monday and seemed to be in good spirits.

"That’s a possibility," Belichick said Tuesday when asked about McClellin's potential return to the field.

"It’s something that we’ll talk about with the medical people before we start work this week and see where we’re at. If he’s ready, then it’s an option. If he’s not ready, then it’s not an option."

Patriots receiver Malcolm Mitchell has also been on IR since the day of the season-opener, though he has not been spotted in the Patriots locker room recently, and ESPN's Mike Reiss reported over the weekend that Mitchell (knee) isn't close to a return. 

Patriots defensive lineman Vincent Valentine is on IR as well and could be a candidate to return, but he was placed on the list two days prior to New England's Week 3 game with Houston so his timeline is different from McClellin's and Mitchell's. 

Should McClellin return to practice, it would add an experienced player to a group that includes Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, David Harris and Marquis Flowers. Harvey Langi is typically a part of this group as well, but he was in a car crash over the weekend that resulted in serious injuries to him and his wife. 

McClellin played in 17 games last season, including playoffs, and he finished the season with the second-most snaps of any Patriots linebacker. He has the ability to be a versatile piece for Belichick's defense, with experience both off the line and on the edge, and he's been a core special-teamer.

The Patriots will practice for the first time this week on Wednesday afternoon so we'll have an update on McClellin one way or the other at that point.

Dion Lewis: 'Nobody's really worried' about Tom Brady

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Dion Lewis: 'Nobody's really worried' about Tom Brady

James White put it perfectly on Thursday. When asked if he was the one who injured Tom Brady's hand in Wednesday's practice, the running back replied, "The world may never know."

During an interview with NFL Network, another Patriots running back said you can't put Brady's injury on him.

"Not me," said DIon Lewis. "No, it wasn't me . . . I actually didn't see it happen, but from when I talked to other guys, I knew he was gonna be oaky. It's Tom, so regardless of any situation he's put in, he's going to make sure he's out there game day. Nobody's really worried."

That seems to be the general consensus inside the Patriots locker room. They're all expecting Brady to play. And when they're asked about how he's looked, their answers have ranged from evasive to joking about Brady's handsomeness

The focus, as Lewis explained, isn't so much on the health of their quarterback but rather the game plan they're putting in place to take on the top defense in the AFC. 

"We have a great idea," Lewis said, "of what we think we can do to have success against this defense . . . We just gotta be on point every play. We don't got plays to give away."

Might that mean a load of two-back or two-tight end sets to keep Jacksonville's base personnel on the field? Might that mean plenty of work in the screen game, as Jerod Mayo suggested on this week's Quick Slants the Podcast? Might that mean a heavy dose of Rob Gronkowski?

There are soft spots in the Jaguars defense, as talented as it is, but it will probably require Brady being able to grip a football for the Patriots to exploit them. His teammates seem confident he'll be able to do that.

Tom Brady spotted at beginning of Friday practice

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Tom Brady spotted at beginning of Friday practice

FOXBORO — For the second straight day, Tom Brady was on the practice field long enough for people to take pictures of his hand. Check ‘em out. 

Friday marked the second straight day in which Brady wore a glove on his throwing hand, something he does not typically do. He was also on the field for the media portion at the beginning of Thursday’s practice, but did not participate in the actual practice. 

We’ll know when the practice report is released later today whether Brady practiced this time. He’ll also speak this afternoon.