Compared to last season, the New England Patriots are relatively healthy heading into this year’s playoffs. While the NFL’s best tight end, Rob Gronkowski, is a notable absence due to a back injured that forced the team to place him on season-ending injured reserve, the rest of the Patriots’ offensive arsenal is pretty much intact.
The team has only one true question mark: wide receiver Danny Amendola.
Amendola has missed the Patriots’ last four games due to a high ankle sprain he suffered in week 13 against the Los Angeles Rams. During those four weeks he was neither spotted on the practice fields nor in the locker room. The latter changed earlier this week, when the veteran wideout and punt returner was seen walking through the locker room without any visible limitations.
While this is certainly encouraging, the bigger news is that Amendola returned to practice today. The 31-year old appeared to move well while going through drills and seems to be on his way to play next week when the Patriots enter the postseason. And even if the team opts to play it safe and slowly re-integrates him into the mix – something it could afford thanks to the emergence of Malcolm Mitchell and the acquisition of Michael Floyd - Amendola will still provide additional depth, experience and versatility. With the playoffs often being a game of attrition, Amendola’s return, no matter in which capacity, cannot be underestimated.
While Amendola was back on the practice fields during today’s full pads session, the team opted to keep quarterback Tom Brady (thigh), wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell (knee) and cornerback Cyrus Jones (knee) out. With neither of the injuries appearing to be serious, New England is smart to go the cautious road.