Ninkovich returns to Patriots practice


Ninkovich returns to Patriots practice

FOXBORO -- Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich returned to practice on Thursday after suffering what appeared to be a significant hip injury in New England's win over the Dolphins on Sunday.

Tom Brady and Dont'a Hightower also were present at the media availability portion of practice after missing Wednesday's session for reasons undisclosed by the team.

The Patriots had perfect attendance during their second and final practice this week out behind Gillette Stadium in temperatures that hovered just below freezing. Players wore shells and sweats.

As was the case Wednesday, the Patriots are not required to release a practice participation report Thursday.

Insider Tom E. Curran reported earlier this week that the Patriots were cautiously optimistic Ninkovich would be able to return for the playoffs. Though Ninkovich missed Wednesday's practice, his presence on Thursday, more than a full week before the Divisional Round playoff game the Patriots will host on Jan. 13, is a good sign for New England's defense.