FOXBORO, Mass. — The good news for the Patriots: Hunter Henry was back on the practice field four days after leaving Saturday’s game with a knee injury.
The bad news: Hunter’s running mate remained sidelined Wednesday, as did several other important New England players.
Tight end Jonnu Smith, wide receiver DeVante Parker, cornerbacks Jalen Mills, Jack Jones and Marcus Jones, and offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste all were absent during the open media portion of the Patriots’ first Week 17 practice.
Smith and Parker are recovering from concussions, with the latter’s causing him to miss the last two games. Mills has not played since Week 12 as he works his way back from a groin injury. Jack Jones has missed back-to-back games with a knee ailment.
Marcus Jones played 87 snaps between defense, offense and special teams in Saturday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Foxboro but received medical attention after recovering a fourth-quarter fumble. He quickly returned to the game and said afterward that he’d just gotten the wind knocked out of him, but Wednesday’s absence might stem from that injury.
The Patriots’ injury situation at cornerback will be worth monitoring as they prepare to face a vaunted Miami Dolphins receiving corps headlined by Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Hill and Waddle rank second and sixth in the NFL in receiving yards, respectively.
Losing Mills and both Joneses would leave the Patriots with just Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant and Shaun Wade at the position. Wade played one snap against Cincinnati and allowed a touchdown.
New England’s tight end group also is dealing with multiple injuries. Henry played just three snaps against the Bengals and is considered “day to day,” according to a report this week from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport. Smith took a hit to the head late in Saturday’s game and did not return, and practice squad fill-in Scotty Washington landed on injured reserve Tuesday. The Patriots’ only fully healthy tight end is practice squadder Matt Sokol, who has played in one game this season and three in his career.
The Patriots practiced on the Gillette Stadium game field Wednesday — a rarity for a midweek practice. Head coach Bill Belichick said in his morning news conference that New England’s usual practice fields were “not ready” for use.
A loss Sunday to the Dolphins would eliminate the Patriots from playoff contention. A win would keep their postseason hopes alive entering next week’s season finale in Buffalo.