Dennard returns to Patriots practice

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Dennard returns to Patriots practice

FOXBORO -- Save for the expected absence of tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots had full attendance at practice on Thursday.

Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was back at work after missing Wednesday's session for "non-injury related" reasons. According to ESPN Boston, the rookie was in Nebraska on Wednesday for a hearing on pretrial motions in relation to his April 21, 2012 arrest. His trial for felony assault and two misdemeanors is officially scheduled for Feb. 11, according to the report.

The charges stem from an incident during which Dennard allegedly punched a police officer outside of a Nebraska bar. The allegations forced Dennard's draft stock down, and the Patriots eventually selected Dennard out of the University of Nebraska in the seventh round.

Gronkowski broke his left arm for the second time this season against the Texans in New England's Divisional Round win. He will be out for the remainder of the playoffs.

The Patriots worked out in shells and sweats on the breezy lower practice field behind Gillette Stadium.

During ball-security drills, coach Bill Belichick tried to pry a ball loose from receiver Brandon Lloyd and knocked him to the ground. It was a light moment -- at least for those watching -- in a week that has been characterized by the team's laser focus.

Dombrowski: Red Sox not eyeing 'significant' deal at deadline

Dombrowski: Red Sox not eyeing 'significant' deal at deadline

While some reports nationally have the Red Sox in search of a dramatic deal in the run-up to next Monday's non-waiver trade deadline, Dave Dombrowski hardly sounded like someone seeking a blockbuster to improve his club.

"I'm not necessarily looking to make something significant,'' said Dombrowski, ''because we've already added. We have five solid starters. Could they be better? If we have five All-Stars, we're better. But we have five guys we like. Our offense is the best in baseball as far as run production is concerned. Could we better? Sure. Will we be open-minded? Sure. But I don't see that there's a driving force (to do something).''

Certainly, there seem to be plenty of interested trade partners, as Dombrowski revealed that on Monday alone, the Sox received five different trade proposals that they hadn't received before.

"So that's why this time is year is interesting,'' said Dombrowski. "We also have some very good young players in our organization, so some teams are looking for those players. And I can say we're not close to making any trades right now.''

If the Sox have an area of weakness at this point, it's the bullpen, thanks to a season-ending injury to Carson Smith, a long-term injury for Koji Uehara and the current DL stint for closer Craig Kimbrel.

"I think our bullpen will be fine,'' Dombrowski predicted. "We're dealing with a tough situation, for the simple fact that we've had a lot of injuries. (Junichi) Tazawa's up and he's back and pretty much getting to the point where he can get back to his normal routine. Kimbrel threw the ball very well today; I wouldn't be surprised if he joined us relatively soon.

"So all of a sudden, you've got (Matt) Barnes, (Brad) Ziegler, we brought up (Joe) Kelly, (Robbie) Ross has thrown the ball very well for us. Can it be better? Sure. You listen to anything at this point. But. . . I know people keep saying 'They've got to add somebody, they've gotta add somebody.' But they forget that we're getting Kimbrel back and we just got Tazawa back.

"You look at it and if those two guys weren't back. My answer would be yes, we need to do something. But I think we're more in a position where we're open-minded but it's not a necessity.''

Some teams have called on Clay Buchholz, currently relegated to a mop-up role in the bullpen. But Dombrowski said Buchholz still has value to the Sox.

"He's real good protection for us (in the rotation),'' he said. "I thought he threw the ball the other day as well as I've seen him throw it all year. And I know, if you just looked at the stats, you'd say, 'He didn't do very well.' Unfortunately, we missed a couple of balls that were catchable. I thought his stuff was outstanding so he's got a place to help us.''