Julian Edelman will miss his second consecutive game Sunday when the Patriots host the Broncos at Gillette Stadium.
Edelman (hand) and safety Steve Gregory (hip) were listed as "out" on the Patriots injury report Friday.
Gregory's absence means a larger role for rookie Tavon Wilson who's been challenging for more playing time. In each of the past two weeks, both Gregory and Patrick Chung were at less than their best in pass defense. With a quarterback as experienced as Peyton Manning on the other side, Wilson could be a target on Sunday.
The Patriots also listed 12 players as questionable for Sunday. Among them is tight end Aaron Hernandez who hurt his ankle at the start of the Week 2 game against the Cardinals. Sources say Hernandez is unlikely to play even though he participated in practice on a limited basis on Thursday and Friday.
Others listed questionable include TE Rob Gronkowski (hip), LB Dont'a Hightower (hamstring), G Logan Mankins (calfhip), CB Sterling Moore (knee), RB Shane Vereen (hip) and RT Sebastian Vollmer (back).
Running back Brandon Bolden (knee), DE Brandon Deaderick, DT Justin Francis (ankle), TE Michael Hoomanawanui (concussion) and OL Nick McDonald (shoulder) were also questionable.
DT Kyle Love is probable for Sunday.
On Wednesday, the Patriots media room was festooned with AFC Championship Game adornments. A big red backdrop behind the podium, Patriots and Steelers helmets arranged on a table facing each other with the Lamar Hunt AFC Champion Trophy in the middle.
Bill Belichick, who's not big on festoons, noted the helmets during his press conference and deadpanned, "So exciting...". That clip got some run.
On Friday, when asked to recall his first Conference Championship as a coach, he mentioned the 2001 AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh and the fact that Belichick, Lawyer Milloy and Tom Brady were all required to fly to Pittsburgh on the Friday before the game to do media duties.
"That was awesome," Belichick snarked. Then, looking to the area where the display was on Wednesday, Belichick smiled and said, "Where's all the stuff from Wednesday? Did it get thrown out?"
He is the turd in the NFL's punch bowl and it's endlessly amusing.
FOXBORO -- During a dinner for donors at Union Station in Washington, D.C. on Thursday night, Donald Trump name-dropped Bill Belichick on two separate occasions. It marked what might've been the first time a president-elect publicly shouted out an NFL coach on the eve of his inauguration in the office's history.
Trump and Belichick have a long-standing friendship, Belichick explained back in November. Still, on Friday morning, the Patriots commander-in-chief had little reaction to his name being mentioned by Trump the night before.
"We've got a big game," Belichick said matter-of-factly.
There was little chance Belichick would utter anything else. He's still in preparation mode, still trying to out-work the Steelers in order to have his team at its best Sunday night.
It's that approach that urged Trump to mention Belichick in the first place.
"I out-worked everybody" during the election, Trump said. "I think I out-worked anyone who ever ran for office. I learned that from Belichick."
Trump also mentioned the four-time Super Bowl-winning head coach while in the process of pointing out Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft during the dinner.
"In the audience we have somebody that's under no pressure whatsoever because he's got a great quarterback named Tom Brady and a great coach named Belichick: Bob Kraft," Trump said. "Good luck, Bob."