Is this the week we see Stephon Gilmore back in the New England Patriots' secondary?
The All-Pro cornerback has missed the last three games dating back to before the Nov. 3 trade deadline due to a knee injury. Some have speculated Gilmore's absence is related to his involvement in trade rumors.
Gilmore shut down that speculation Friday while providing an encouraging update on his status.
“I feel pretty good. Just taking it day-by-day," Gilmore said. "Looking forward to this week. I am just taking it day-by-day and keep preparing like I am going to play this week. ...
"I wasn't physically ready to play these last couple weeks," he added. "Things happen. Gotta adjust to it. Nothing would keep me off the field from playing with my teammates. That's one thing that stuck with me. I'm just happy that I'm progressing and getting better, and looking forward to this week."
J.C. Jackson has stepped up in a big way as the Patriots' No. 1 corner with Gilmore out. The 25-year-old has five straight games with an interception and leads the league with six total picks.
Still, the Patriots need Gilmore back sooner rather than later if they're to make things interesting in the AFC East. They're currently behind the Buffalo Bills (7-3) and Miami Dolphins (6-3) at 4-5 on the season.
New England will aim to extend its win streak to three games when it takes on the Houston Texans on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.