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Dalton Keene scheduled to return off injured reserve after being spotted at Patriots practice on Wednesday

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

The New England Patriots were back on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Wednesday to kick off their preparation for the upcoming road game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Among the players present for the session also was a rookie who had spent the last three weeks on New England’s injured reserve list: tight end Dalton Keene returned to practice, according to reporters present for the open portion of the session.

Keene was originally moved to IR last month after missing New England’s Week 8 and 9 games in Buffalo and New York, respectively, because of a knee injury. With three contests passed since that move, however, he was now eligible to rejoin the team. That has now happened, opening his 21-day window to either be activated to the 53-man roster or revert back to injured reserve for the remainder of the season.

One of the Patriots’ third-round draft picks this year, Keene originally started the season as the team’s number three at the tight end position behind Ryan Izzo and Devin Asiasi. After struggling with a neck injury early on and later spending three games on the sidelines as a healthy scratch, the Virginia Tech product made his NFL debut against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 7. Keene played 24 offensive snaps and caught one pass for eight yards.

However, he eventually returned to the sidelines the following week because of his knee issue — one that forced the Patriots to send him to IR and join fellow rookie Asiasi on the list. With both their rookie tight ends out, the Patriots added Jordan Thomas off waivers to bolster the position behind Izzo. Asiasi and Keene did return to practice in back-to-back weeks, though, starting the process for an eventual return of the two youngsters.

At this point, however, neither has been activated. The question therefore remains when the two rookies will be brought back to the 53-man roster and what kind of impact they will eventually have. At least theoretically, however, both Keene and Asiasi are now eligible to make the trip to Los Angeles with a team that currently has two open spots on its active squad.