By Gregory Hunt
Despite losing the number-one AFC playoff seed on the final weekend of the regular season, it was a stroke of good fortune for the New England Patriots to still come away with a first-round bye. The extra rest will allow the injury-ravaged Patriots to begin the postseason with its healthiest roster in weeks. The Patriots are facing the Kansas City Chiefs in a Divisional Playoff game Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
A whopping 17 players are listed on this week’s injury report, and 12 of them were starters in Week 1; however, only one of them, guard Tre’ Jackson (knee), will likely miss Saturday’s game against the Chiefs.
Most of the remaining players on the report were limited participants in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, but four of them were full participants: Quarterback Tom Brady (ankle), guard Josh Kline (shoulder), wide receiver Brandon LaFell (foot) and safety Devin McCourty (ankle). Tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee) practiced Wednesday before missing the Thursday practice, but he’s still expected to suit up on Saturday.
Six players that were inactive for the regular season finale two weeks ago should return to action against the Chiefs, and that list includes wide receiver Julian Edelman, who has been practicing on a limited basis for several weeks but has not played in a game since breaking a bone in his foot against the New York Giants in November.
Also expected to play after missing the finale is defensive end Chandler Jones, the team’s leader in sacks. Jones is currently dealing with abdomen and toe injuries, and he was also briefly hospitalized last Sunday due to an undisclosed medical emergency. The circumstances surrounding Jones’ medical situation were rather mysterious. Head coach Bill Belichick addressed the the issue at a press conference Thursday morning, but he declined to answer any questions about it from the media.
“Relative to Chandler’s situation, there is nothing that is more important to me personally than the health and well-being of our players and the support people in the organization,” Belichick said. “So that’s the way it is with this organization and me personally. I don’t think that will ever change. We issued a statement on that and I really don’t have anything to add to it.”
The team’s official statement, issued to the Boston Herald, said, “Chandler Jones was admitted to the hospital on Sunday and released that day. He reported to work on time Monday morning and has participated in all meetings and practices since then.”
Protection problems along the offensive line have hampered Brady’s performance at quarterback in recent weeks, but that situation should improve with the return to action of left tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who suffered an ankle injury in a Week 16 game against the New York Jets.
Full participation in practice:
Tom Brady, quarterback (ankle)
Josh Kline, guard (shoulder)
Brandon LaFell, wide receiver (foot)
Devin McCourty, safety (ankle)
Limited participation in practice:
Danny Amendola, wide receiver (knee)
Scott Chandler, tight end (knee)
Justin Coleman, cornerback (concussion)
Nate Ebner, defensive back (hand)
Julian Edelman, wide receiver (foot)
Jonathan Freeny, linebacker (hand)
Rob Gronkowski, tight end (knee)
Dont’a Hightower, linebacker (knee)
Chandler Jones, defensive end (abdomen/toe)
Rob Ninkovich, linebacker (shin)
Sebastian Vollmer, tackle (ankle)
LaAdrian Waddle, tackle (shoulder)
Did not practice:
Tre’ Jackson, guard (knee)
Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He’s also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women’s college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.