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Belichick: Patriots Team ‘Healthy As It’s Been At This Time of Year’

Several Patriots returned to practice on Monday, including a rookie offensive lineman set to make his professional practice debut.

FOXBORO — Prior to his players taking the field for their tenth practice of 2022 training camp, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had some encouraging news for those keeping a watchful eye on the team’s walking wounded.

“We feel like our team is as healthy as it’s been at this time of year,” Belichick told reporters late Monday afternoon.

This declaration was supported by New England’s practice attendance, accounting for only two absences. Running back James White continues to be the only Patriot remaining on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, while rookie offensive lineman Andrew Stuber is the only Patriot presently residing on the non-football injury (NFI) list.

Throughout training camp, Stueber had been joined on NFI by LSU product, and fellow rookie offensive lineman Chasen Hines. However, Belichick confirmed that the 6-3, 327-pound lineman would be present on the practice fields, thus ending his time on the list.

Hines was selected by the Patriots with the 210th pick on day three of the 2022 NFL Draft. He arrived at LSU as a defensive lineman before transitioning to the offensive line in 2018. Hines has the size and strength to be an irresistible force against defenders in the run game. He features a stout anchor and sturdy base in pass protection. He also offers the positional versatility that the Pats covet in their offensive linemen.

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While Hines already sounds like an ideal fit with the Patriots, he does enter the NFL with some question marks. In order to succeed at the pro level, the former LSU Tigers will need to improve on holding his frame upon contact, to prevent stalemates in his battles with the opposition. When pass rushers are allowed to reach his edges, he has struggled to recover. This could be of particular concern to quarterback Mac Jones, who had a tendency to struggle when adjusting to strategically placed blitzes from the second and third level of the opponent’s defense.

Along with Hines’ debut, the presence of linebacker Jahlani Tavai was also a welcomed sight to those in attendance.

During a red zone drill on Thursday, the 25-year-old was helped from the field by team trainers after sustaining an apparent non-contact leg injury. While he was present for the team’s in-stadium practice on Friday evening, he did not participate, spending his time on the sidelines wearing a leg brace.

Tavai’s work ethic and versatility caught the eye of his teammates and coaches as the 2021 season progressed, including head coach Bill Belichick. During an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio last week, Belichick said he expected Tavai to be a “big factor on all four downs.” He had been making a strong case for a roster spot, as a versatile linebacker that was also capable of shifting up and playing along the defensive line.

In addition to the returns of both Hines and Tavai, running back Rhamondre Stevenson, linebacker Matt Judon, safety Jabrill Peppers and tight end Dalton Keene were all present for practice on Monday.