Vollmer, Connolly return to Patriots practice

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Vollmer, Connolly return to Patriots practice

FOXBORO -- New England's banged-up offensive line saw two of its injured starters return to practice on Thursday.

Both tackle Sebastian Vollmer and guard Dan Connolly were back on the grass practice field at Gillette Stadium during the media portion of Thursday's session. Vollmer (backknee) and Connolly (back) missed Wednesday's practice.

Missing from Thursday's practice were tight end Rob Gronkowski, guard Logan Mankins, defensive end Chandler Jones and and tackle Markus Zusevics.

Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran reported on Wednesday that Jones would likely miss Sunday's game in Miami with an ankle injury.

Players wore shells and shorts (or sweatpants) on a sunny but chilly day at Gillette where temperatures hung near the upper 30-degree range.

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.