FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots offense still has a glaring need for field-stretching speed.

But help could arrive as soon as next week.

Second-year receiver Tyquan Thornton will be eligible to resume practicing and come off injured reserve. Thornton has been sidelined since suffering a shoulder injury in August while making a highlight-reel grab on Day 2 of joint practices with the Green Bay Packers.

The 2022 second-round pick was present in New England’s locker room this week during media locker room availability. That’s a potential sign that he’ll be ready to go when the Patriots hit the practice field Wednesday.

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For Kendrick Bourne, Thornton’s return can’t come soon enough.

“He’s very important to our offense,” Bourne told on Friday. “He’s gonna stretch the field for us even more. He’s just a different threat. … His speed is just, it’s unique. And we need that right now.”

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The hope is that Thornton eventually can develop into a versatile receiver capable of running a variety of routes. However, the Patriots currently just need a burner who can take the top off the defense, a role that Thornton should be able to fill.

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Bourne said he’s been trying to make sure Thornton is ready to hit the ground running upon his return.

“I’ve been encouraging him just to be ready: ‘You’re gonna be running, bro.’ And he needs to be ready for that role,” Bourne said.

Thornton’s career obviously hasn’t gone the way he and the Patriots hoped it would. And his second summer in New England felt like a repeat of the first.

As a rookie, Thornton occasionally excelled during training camp before suffering a broken clavicle that sidelined him for the first four games of the season. This offseason, he started strong, faded in the middle and was on the upswing before hurting his shoulder.

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Thornton played a lot but wasn’t very productive after returning in 2021, finishing the campaign with just 22 catches for 247 yards and two touchdowns. And there’s a chance his post-IR numbers won’t be much better this time around.

While speaking with, Bourne talked about how New England’s receiver room puts an emphasis on not worrying about individual statistics. He was especially glowing in his praise of JuJu Smith-Schuster.

And Bourne wants Thornton to have that same mindset if he doesn’t immediately land high-volume usage.

“He’s gonna be one of those players,” Bourne said. “Just like I was talking about, knowing his role and understanding that sometimes the ball might not come every time — for all of us. So, just keep doing it consistently for those times in the games where it’s gonna change the game.

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“I think he’s ready. I’m excited to have him back.”

Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images