Hernandez (ankle) back at practice

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Hernandez (ankle) back at practice

FOXBORO -- Aaron Hernandez returned to practice Thursday for the first time since injuring his ankle in the first quarter of New England's Week 2 game against the Cardinals. He took part in a few drills during the media access period and didn't appear to be limping noticeably, though he also didn't look to be going full speed.

Rob Gronkowski also returned to practice after missing Wednesday's session with a hip injury. Fellow tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was back on the field as well after sitting out Wednesday's practice because of a concussion.

Missing from the early part of Thursday's practice were safety Steve Gregory, receiver Julian Edelman and cornerback Ras-I Dowling. Gregory (hip) and Edelman (hand) did not participate in Wednesday's practice.

Players were outside in a light drizzle and wore shells and shorts.

Jamie Collins says he'll play quarterback for Patriots if they need him

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Jamie Collins says he'll play quarterback for Patriots if they need him

FOXBORO -- It's looking more and more like the Patriots will have options at quarterback Sunday against the Bills. Both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett threw at practice on Wednesday, and it appears that at least one of them, if not both, will be available for the final game of Tom Brady's suspension. 

Patriots receiver Julian Edelman is the likely candidate to jump behind center should the team run into an emergency, but on Wednesday another player threw his hat into the ring. 

"Yeah, I'll play," said linebacker Jamie Collins. "Whatever it is. I don't care what the level is. I don't care what the level is. Whatever it is they need me to do, I'm doing it."

That would be some kind of show.

At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, and with remarkable closing speed, Collins would be an intimidating run-first signal-caller. He's listed at two inches shorter and five pounds heavier than Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, and his NFL Scouting Combine 40-yard dash time was only 0.05 seconds slower than Newton's. 

Just to take this pie-in-the-sky idea even further, Collins can throw, too. Or he could at one point in time. He played quarterback at Franklin County High in Meadville, Miss. before heading off to Southern Mississippi to play all over the Golden Eagles defense. As a high school senior, he cracked 1,000 yards both on the ground and through the air.

Asked if he saw himself back then as a future star in the NFL as a passer, Collins shook his head.

"Nah," he said. "I ain't even see myself as a quarterback in the NFL."

The Patriots would be just fine with Collins sticking at linebacker. He had one of the best games of his career against the Texans last week, racking up 14 tackles and picking off Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler. He also made the calls in the middle of the defense, which is a job that typically falls to Dont'a Hightower, but Collins took over with Hightower out with a knee injury.

"Jamie Collins, he's a beast, man," said safety Duron Harmon after the game. "I tell you what, I've seen a lot of football players play, and he's definitely one of my favorite players to just watch. You just get caught up sometimes seeing all the amazing stuff he does on the field, you just sit in awe. I'm so happy he's on my team, I'll tell you that."

And the team is happy he's at linebacker. But imagine him at quarterback?

Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

FOXBORO -- The highly-anticipated first Patriots injury report of the week was released on Wednesday afternoon, and it was fairly predictable. 

Both injured quarterbacks were active but limited in their practice participation, the report indicated. That comes as little surprise as both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) were spotted throwing passes early in Wednesday's practice. Neither appeared to be experiencing any significant discomfort as they made their warm-up throws. 

Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) were also limited. Gronkowski admitted that the team was taking it slow with him in his first game back on the field last week -- he played just 14 snaps in New England's win over Houston -- but he said on Wednesday that he hoped to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

BUFFALO BILLS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Charles Clay (knee)
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)