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Justin Herron returns to Patriots practice, opening 21-day window to be activated off injured reserve

Related: Bill Belichick gives a positive injury update on Julian Edelman

New England Patriots Practice Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The New England Patriots started their on-field preparation for the upcoming game against the Houston Texans on Wednesday, and along the way saw two of their rookie players return to practice after stints on injured reserve: offensive tackle Justin Herron and practice squad tight end Jake Burt were back, according to reporters present for the session at Gillette Stadium.

Herron, who was selection in the sixth round of this year’s draft, was moved to IR because of an ankle injury he suffered during the Patriots’ Week 7 loss against the San Francisco 49ers. Following the transaction, he had to sit out at least three games before being allowed to rejoin his teammates on the practice field — something he did today, giving New England an additional layer of depth at offensive tackle after Jermaine Eluemunor’s return last week.

Herron, once officially activated as well, is expected to serve as the fourth option behind Eluemunor and starters Isaiah Wynn and Michael Onwenu. While the rookie could be back as soon as this Sunday, New England is under no pressure to return him just yet: the team has 21 days beginning today to activate him; if that does not happen, he will spend the remainder of the season on injured reserve.

“I think we’ll do what we would normally do in that situation, and that’s to work towards that goal but not start it until we’re sure the player is ready to start,” head coach Bill Belichick said earlier on Wednesday when speaking about Herron and wide receiver Julian Edelman. Edelman, who was also eligible to return to practice, did not return just yet.

“I think they’re all moving in the right direction, and decisions really on this — before we start the clock we just want to make sure that they’re confident, and we’re confident, that they’re ready for participation in the next stage in their return to play,” Belichick continued.

The aforementioned Jake Burt was also back, opening the window for him to return to the practice squad. With New England having only two tight ends on its 53-man roster — Ryan Izzo and Jordan Thomas — and Paul Quessenberry the only other player at the position on the developmental team, Burt’s return is certainly welcome news.

Fellow rookie tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene are eligible to return from injured reserve in Weeks 12 and 13, respectively.