You could say the Patriots limped into their bye week. Not for a 7-2 record, but for personnel losses. New England's last game before the break, a 55-31 toppling of Pittsburgh, was not won without casualties. Receiver Austin Collie suffered a knee injury and left the field.
He was released by the team two days later.
The Patriots have started 36 different players this season for injuries. Monday after the bye, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels talked about how the team will absorb to the latest blow.
"You never like to see a player get hurt," McDaniels said, "and certainly Austin was helping us and doing what we asked of him, but any time a situation like this comes up during the course of the season, it usually provides a little spark of competition and I think that's healthy for any group on the team. We'll look forward to the receivers going out there and having a good week of practice and letting it unfold from there.
"We've got a lot of guys that have played in different roles, different spots. I think the guys that have been active in the last couple weeks, with [Aaron Dobson] and Julian [Edelman] and Danny [Amendola] trying to have some consistency in terms of the things we're doing with those guys. And [Kenbrell Thompkins] and Josh Boyce also factor into the competition, in terms of who's active and how we go about forming the game plan."
The offense will get a boost when Shane Vereen is activated. The third-year running back was one of four Patriots relegated to IR since September 5. Vereen, who fractured his wrist in a solid Week 1 performance, at least had the distinction of being designated to return.
He rejoined his teammates at practice October 30 and is eligible to play in New England's first game out of the bye.
"Shane is a good football player, and as soon as he's ready and able to help us, and we're able to play him, he'll certainly have a role in the game," McDaniels noted. "He definitely did make a big impact in Week 1. I don't know if we could expect him to do that right off the bat in his first game back, whenever that is. But we'll look forward to having him back. He's a really good kid, great teammate, and obviously good football player who can help us. So we look forward to that."