FOXBORO -- When Steve Gregory was helped off the field in Sunday's win over the Steelers, he became the third Patriot to leave for the locker room that night. Receiver Austin Collie went down first with a knee injury. Next was defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who injured an ankle.
All told, New England finished the game missing seven starters from its Week 1 roster.
So what does that mean for Bill Belichick and his staff? A radical shift in schemes? You'd think there would come a point when the Patriots just can't play they way they planned to in September.
You would be wrong.
"I mean, what are you going to do?" Belichick posed rhetorically. "You have all the other guys that have practiced those. We have a couple new people in there, are you going to teach the 15 or 18 or however many that have been doing them all year [and say] ‘We’re going to do something else.’ I don’t think you can really do that."
The Patriots have started 36 different players through the first nine weeks of the season. Just Monday the team signed a new receiver, former Raven LaQuan Williams, because Collie's injury warranted his release.
New England has a 7-2 record, but will limp into the bye week in a more literal sense. Ninkovich and Gregory may return after the much needed break. If so, great; if not, Belichick will do what he can with what he's got.
"You've got to try to get the new players up to speed the best you can. You might have to condense a little bit of what you're doing or change it a little bit, whatever, but I don't think we want to go in here and try to put in a new playbook because a couple people got injured.
"It's hard," the coach concluded. "You don't want to lose anybody, but that's reality. It's not the first time anybody's gotten hurt."