FOXBORO -- It sounds as though Aqib Talib is getting closer to making his return to the field.
The Patriots cornerback has participated in every team practice since the Friday following New England's Week 6 win over the Saints, when he suffered a hip injury. On Thursday, he spoke to the media, which is sometimes a sign in coach Bill Belichick's locker room that a player is on the verge of coming back.
Talib made no predictions as to his availability for Monday night's game with Carolina, but he indicated that he was progressing.
"Practicing good, man," he said. "Day to day. Trying to get back."
In his press conference on Thursday, Belichick explained that Talib is getting better, and that the Patriots are throwing more and more at him on the practice field to see how much he can handle physically. It's something they do with all of their players returning from injury.
"He's continued to progress," Belichick said of his No. 1 corner. "We'll keep doing -- as they can tolerate it -- keep doing more and evaluate how they do at a little bit higher level. And if that goes well, ramp it up and we'll see where we are as we go through the week. Same thing we do every week."
After missing his team's last three games, Talib said last week's bye was "vital" to the recuperation of his hip. Now in practice he's working to reestablish the fundamentals and the techniques of playing his position: having the proper footwork, being able to use his hands in coverage, making sure his eyes are directed where they need to be at all times.
The end game, of course, is to be back on the field. Talib hasn't exactly enjoyed this last month of inactivity on game days.
"Anytime you have to watch your guys go to war without you," he said, "that's the worst thing in the world."
As expected, the Patriots secondary took a hit without its best cover man. Before his injury, Talib completely shut down some of the league's best pass-catchers. He was stout against Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson. He helped cancel out Atlanta's Julio Jones and Roddy White. Against New Orleans, he was having his best game of the season before he was injured, holding tight end Jimmy Graham without a catch for most of the game.
With an altered secondary, the Patriots still went 2-1, allowing 30 points to the Jets in an overtime loss, 17 points to the Dolphins in a win, and 31 points in a win over the Steelers.
Players like Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan and Marquice Cole were forced into some different high-leverage situations due to Talib's absence, but through it all New England's defensive backs had a cheerleader.
"I was they No. 1 fan," Talib said. "Texting them, trying to help them any way I can. But those guys, they played their butts off for as long as I was out."
New England's defensive end Rob Ninkovich seemed upbeat at the prospect of having a healthy Talib back in the defensive huddle sometime soon.
"Unbelievable player," Ninkovich said. "Happy to have him on the field with us. I think the guys that stepped up while he was gone did a great job, but having him back is just going to help us as far as just having more depth and keep guys rolling."
"They both work together, coverage and pressure, pressure and coverage," Ninkovich added. "When they're both working together, it's a great combination there. I'm happy to have Aqib back helping us put more pressure on the quarterback with better coverage."
The final question of the day for Talib centered on when he suffered the hip injury he's now in the process of trying to overcome. He shrugged it off.
"It was just an injury," Talib said. "It is what it is. I'm worried about Carolina now."
Though there have been no official determinations made yet as to whether or not Talib will take the field Monday night, he sounds like a guy who is planning to play.