I'll let Bernd cover the injury report later today, but there's some great news that just can't wait:
Tight end Rob Gronkowski? Yeah, he's out there. Wide receiver Julian Edelman? Oh yeah. Defensive tackle Dominique Easley? He's practicing. Linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins? Mmmhm.
If you need visual proof, we've got it.
Here's head coach Bill Belichick smiling behind the two best offensive skill players.
Belichick was standing behind and talking to Gronk and Edelman. I'm sure that got a smile out of him today. pic.twitter.com/8nFIQAhWav— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) December 11, 2015
And here's a picture of the two high-fiving.
You want a video of the high five?
How about Edelman testing out his foot?
Here's video proof. Edelman looked to be moving well. pic.twitter.com/oF4WD2kQue— Michael Whitmer (@GlobeWhitmer) December 11, 2015
And here's how Edelman compares to Dez Bryant returning from a similar injury.
Edelman's recovery timetable compared to Dez Bryant's. Bryant also had Jones fracture, played 6 weeks post-injury pic.twitter.com/UqAGtomAcC— Kevin Duffy (@KevinRDuffy) December 11, 2015
So if Edelman returns at the same pace as the Cowboys receiver, he should be back in time for the final two weeks of the regular season. Knowing the Patriots, they'll likely hold Edelman out for extra time, although it might not be a shock if the wide receiver plays a drive or two in the season finale.
The Patriots are finally healthy and while every player might not be available for the next week or two, they're going to make noise in the playoffs.
You know what team this reminds me of? A way-better version of the 2006 Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts started out 9-0, before falling four of their final seven games and nabbing the 3rd seed in the playoffs. Indianapolis missed All Pro safety Bob Sanders for most of the year, but his return for the playoffs revamped a defense ranked in the bottom third of the league in the regular season to one that allowed just 10 points per game to non-Patriots opponents in the playoffs.
Indianapolis was a great example of how getting healthy at the right time was more important that finishing the season on a strong note, or getting a first round bye.
The Patriots will likely keep out Gronkowski and Edelman a week longer than necessary, while players like Hightower, Collins, wide receiver Danny Amendola, and other have also nursed a minor injury longer than most other teams would be able to allow.
Health is of paramount importance and health is exactly what the Patriots are showing in the final quarter of the NFL season. There's a lot of football left to play.