After their third preseason game against the Carolina Panthers last Friday, the New England Patriots returned to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium today. The team starts its preparation for the fourth preseason contest on Thursday but also has to keep an eye on the approaching regular season as well.
The biggest story of the 20-minute media access window: the return of two interior offensive linemen: guards Jonathan Cooper and Shaq Mason returned to practice.
Cooper, who was acquired via trade in March, started OTAs, minicamp and training camp with the projected first-team offensive line. However, a foot injury he suffered in late July forced him to miss every practice and game since. Now, the 26-year old is back on the practice fields and, when healthy, projects to re-enter the competition for the starting right guard spot.
The same has to be said about Shaq Mason. The second-year player, who started 12 games for the Patriots last season, missed the last two preseason games and all practices since then with a broken hand. Seeing him return, especially considering how unclear the timetable has been when his injury has first been reported, it definitely an encouraging sign for the 23-year old and New England’s offensive line.
Both Cooper and Mason left the session early to join the conditioning group, which looked as follows:
Shaq Mason, Jonathan Cooper, Tre' Jackson, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Rob Ninkovich, McClellin worked on conditioning during drills.— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) August 29, 2016
As we were walking off the field so was Gronk, who was heading to the lower field with other rehabbing players— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) August 29, 2016
Mason and Cooper were not the only players to return to practice today. Defensive tackle Alan Branch, whom the team suspended for undisclosed reasons two weeks ago, was also back.
Therefore, the list of players not present for today’s session looked as follows:
Absent: Matt Slater, Dion Lewis (PUP), Sebastian Vollmer (PUP), Kamu Grugier-Hill.— Kevin Duffy (@KevinRDuffy) August 29, 2016
This also means that the newest Patriot – Barkevious Mingo – practices with the team for the first time since getting acquired via trade last week:
Mingo took early positional drills with the linebackers in a 3-4 OLB capacity. Defensive ends worked elsewhere.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) August 29, 2016
Mingo wearing No. 51.— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) August 29, 2016
Other positive news involve edge defender Jabaal Sheard, who appears to be heading in the right direction when it comes to his knee injury:
Jabaal Sheard (knee) stayed with the rest of the team on the Patriots' main practice field during drills. Step in the right direction.— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) August 29, 2016
The Patriots’ overall health is slowly getting better. Hopefully, there won’t be any setbacks in the future.