The New England Patriots returned to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, starting the on-field preparation for their upcoming game against the Indianapolis Colts. They also saw a pair of young defenders return: safety Kyle Dugger and linebacker Josh Uche were back after previously missing some time.
Dugger, 25, returned from a 13-day stint on the Coronavirus reserve list. The Patriots were forced to send him there following a positive test on December 1, and as a result he missed the team’s Week 13 win over the Buffalo Bills.
Getting Dugger back is good news for the Patriots defense heading into its final four games of the regular season. The second-year man out of Lenoir-Rhyne has played 81 percent of New England’s defensive snaps so far this season, moving all over the secondary. Appearing in 12 of 13 games so far, he registered a team-leading 80 tackles as well as three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Dugger will immediately return to the Patriots’ 53-man roster. With the team currently having one spot available, no follow-up move has to be made.
Uche, 23, was back at practice for the first time since being placed on injured reserve in mid-November. The second-year linebacker had appeared in nine games this season before an ankle injury forced the Patriots to send him to IR.
While Uche has joined his teammates back at practice and is eligible to return to the 53-man roster as well, he does not have to be activated just yet. His return merely opened a 21-day window in which New England can either activate him or alternatively keep him on injured reserve for the rest of the season.
Getting Dugger and Uche back was not the only good news for the Patriots on Tuesday. Running back Damien Harris and safety Adrian Phillips were also present for the session after leaving the game in Buffalo due to hamstring and knee injuries, respectively.
The Patriots will release their first injury report of the week later on Tuesday.