On the second practice of the bye week, the New England Patriots had perfect practice attendance. Tom Brady, Donta’ Hightower, and Rob Ninkovich were all absent on Wednesday, but all three of them returned on Thursday. Brady was just getting some well-deserved rest on Wednesday, the same can likely be said for Hightower who was a more surprising absence to start the week, and Ninkovich was out after sustaining a hip injury against the Miami Dolphins last Sunday.
It looked like Ninkovich’s injury could have costed him the postseason, but reports a few days after the game assured most Patriots fans that Ninko’s injury wasn’t severe and probably wouldn’t cost him the first postseason game.
Nevertheless, I didn’t think Ninkovich would be able to return to practice this week following that hip injury, but the tough starting defensive end has shown his grittiness and returned about a week earlier than expected. The Patriots have plenty of pass rushing depth at defensive end with Jermaine Cunningham, Trevor Scott, and Justin Francis, but the Pats would sorely miss Ninko’s versatility, leadership, and incredible run-stopping ability.
After Thursday’s return to the team, it looks like Rob Ninkovich is almost guaranteed to be active for the divisional round game in two weeks. The only thing that remains uncertain is who the Patriots will be playing, because the Pats are at full strength. At least, everyone who is currently on the 53-man roster is.
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