By Gregory Hunt
The New England Patriots hope to advance to the franchise's eighth Super Bowl when they face the Indianapolis Colts Sunday at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship Game. In NFL history, only the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers have played in eight Super Bowls. Injury-wise, the Patriots have remained fairly healthy this season, and it's possible only one player on the active roster will miss this weekend's game.
The following players had limited participation in this week’s practice, unless otherwise noted:
Tom Brady (QB)
As has been the case for much of the season, starting quarterback Tom Brady appears on New England's list with an ankle injury. The injury didn't appear to hurt him in last week's 35-31 win over the Baltimore Ravens when he ran for his 5th career postseason rushing touchdown, which tied a franchise record held by running back Curtis Martin. Brady's been a full participant in practice this week, so expect him to take every meaningful snap against the Colts.
Brandon Browner (CB)
Starting cornerback Brandon Browner left the game against the Ravens in the third quarter with a knee injury. That knee puts him on this week's injury list, but he claimed he was "feeling great" earlier in the week. Browner will likely start against the Colts, but backup Logan Ryan will replace him if necessary.
Brandon LaFell (WR)
For the second consecutive week, starting wide receiver Brandon LaFell is listed with shoulder and toe injuries, but he still caught seven passes last week for 62 yards and a touchdown. The shoulder injury has lingered for a while, but he hasn't missed a game all season, so he shouldn't miss any action against the Colts.
Dont'a Hightower (LB)
A shoulder injury is the latest ailment suffered by starting linebacker Dont'a Hightower. He was not mentioned on last week's list, but he was listed earlier in the season with a previous shoulder injury, and a knee injury before that. Even though he missed four games during the regular season, he still made a career-high six sacks, so the Patriots hope to see him in the lineup Sunday.
Chris Jones (DT)
Reserve defensive lineman Chris Jones is a new addition to the list with an elbow injury. It's not known how serious the injury is, but given that he's a non-starter, there's a possibility he may be inactive for the AFC Championship Game. He did make a significant contribution last week, however, recovering a kick return fumbled by wide receiver Danny Amendola.
Bryan Stork (C)
After suffering a knee injury against the Ravens, starting center Bryan Stork has not participated in practice and will not suit up against the Colts. He's been New England's best center this season, so this is a huge loss that will force the Patriots to move right guard Ryan Wendell to center and put Josh Kline in the spot vacated by Wendell. Kline occasionally struggled against the Ravens, so his performance will need to improve to keep the Colts from putting too much pressure on Brady.
Tom Brady (ankle)
Brandon Browner (knee)
Brandon LaFell (shoulder/toe)
Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
Chris Jones (elbow)
Bryan Stork (knee) OUT
Two players on last week's report that do not appear on this week's report are running back Jonas Gray (ankle) and wide receiver Julian Edelman (concussion). Gray was inactive last week, but Edelman caught 14 passes and also threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Amendola.
For more Patriots news and updates, visit Patriots Central.
Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He's also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women's college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.
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