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Injury Report (Friday): Patriots vs. Chargers (Week 20)

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Patriots Injury Report Almost All Clear
Chargers' TE Gates, QB Rivers 'Doubtful'

The New England Patriots injury report is nearly clear ( players on injured reserve, of course). Safety Mel Mitchell will miss Sunday's action with a biceps injury. Mitchell missed practice all week, but was not ruled out until Friday afternoon.

Safety Rodney Harrison, who practiced all week until Friday, when he missed practice altogether, is listed as probable with an on-going thigh injury. Harrison has been battling that injury since during or after the Week 15 Jets game.

Quarterback Tom Brady is also listed as probable with his long-time shoulder injury.

Offensive linemen Matt Light and Ryan O'Callaghan both battled the flu earlier in the week, but neither were listed in Friday's report and should be ready to go. Patriots players have suffered flu-like illnesses in almost every playoff tournament in which they've played. No doubt they're hoping this illness doesn't spread, as it did before last year's AFC Championship.

Guard Stephen Neal sat out some practice time earlier in the week with his nagging shoulder injury, and wide receiver Donté Stallworth was limited in practice Wednesday with a knee injury, but he appears ready to go.

San Diego, of course, has major injuries to several key players.

Tight end Antonio Gates and quarterback Philip Rivers are both listed as doubtful, Gates with a dislocated toe suffered in San Diego's Wild Card matchup with Tennessee, and Rivers with a right knee injury suffered nearly 6 weeks ago. Most media outlets were aware of a sprained medial collateral ligament, but the San Diego Tribune said its sources revealed Rivers also has a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Meanwhile, defensive tackle Jamal Williams missed every practice with an ankle injury. He's listed as questionable.

Also, linebacker Shawne Merriman has been sick all week and has been limited in practice each day. He's listed as probable.

Running back Lorenzo Neal, who say out last week against Indianapolis, was listed as participating fully in practice Wednesday and not listed the rest of the week. He had a lower leg injury, but that no longer appears to be an issue.

Starting running back LaDanian Tomlinson did not practice Wednesday but participated fully Thursday. Tomlinson missed most of the Indy game after fumbling and allegedly hyperextending his left knee very early in the second quarter. It seemed odd to see Tomlinson riding a stationary bike and jogging on the sideline in a do-or-die game against one of the best teams in football if he physically able to play.

Gates was listed as doubtful last week before the Indy game, but he did play and made a couple catches. It's difficult to tell if he was unable to play at full speed and thus was ineffective, or if the Colts covered him well and Rivers and Billy Volek simply chose to throw elsewhere.

Rivers said he is ready to play, despite his "doubtful" classification. It seems like a weak ploy to convince New England to spend time preparing for both Rivers and Volek. The Patriots very likely are preparing for both, anyway, because that's what New England's coaching staff does.