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Patriots practice update: The offensive line gets some help; OGs Shaq Mason and Jonathan Cooper return

The two interior offensive linemen returned to practice today.

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:

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:

This also means that the newest Patriot – Barkevious Mingo – practices with the team for the first time since getting acquired via trade last week:

Other positive news involve edge defender Jabaal Sheard, who appears to be heading in the right direction when it comes to his knee injury:

The Patriots’ overall health is slowly getting better. Hopefully, there won’t be any setbacks in the future.