The first practice participation and injury report of Week Thirteen of the 2021 NFL season provided both questions and concern for the New England Patriots, as they prepare to travel to Orchard Park, New York to take on the Buffalo Bills on Monday night at Highmark Stadium at 8:15pm ET.
Though the Patriots enter this matchup with an 8-4 record, winners of six-straight, the 7-4 defensive AFC Champions provide perhaps the toughest test for the Pats this season, to date. Buffalo is among the NFL’s best teams in all three phases of the game. The Bills are well-coached and possess the type of battle-tested experience that will greatly assist them in both late-season and playoff contests.
As a result, there are plenty of storylines heading into this contest on Monday, many of which surrounding the health of some key players.
Here is Thursday’s full report:
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (8-4)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE
No Players Listed.
C David Andrews, Shoulder
DL Christian Barmore, Knee
LB Ja'Whaun Bentley, Ribs
RB Brandon Bolden, Knee
OT Trent Brown, Calf
K Nick Folk, Left Knee
LB Dont'a Hightower, Ankle
WR Gunner Olszewski, Ankle
No Players Listed.
What It Means: Patriots
Though the Patriots listed zero non-participants on Thursday, there were a couple of new additions to the report, who were limited in their participation status. Center David Andrews (shoulder), running back Brandon Bolden (knee) and return specialist Gunner Olszewski (ankle) join the report, after not having been listed last week.
In positive news for the Pats, running backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith and punter Jake Bailey have all been removed from the report.
While neither safety Kyle Dugger, nor J.J. Taylor was spotted at Thursday's session, the Patriots welcomed back linebacker Harvey Langi from injured reserve, thus opening his 21-day window for activation.
The veteran linebacker had been on injured reserve with a strained MCL since being designated as such on October 26; just two days after the Patriots 54-13 victory over the New York Jets in Week Seven.
Through seven appearances for the Patriots thus far, Langi has recorded two tackles, playing 16 snaps on defense as a rotational depth option, playing off-the-ball, on the edge and in run-stoppage duty. He has also been a valuable contributor on special teams, primarily on the kicking units, for which he has taken 98 snaps.
On Wednesday, veteran linebacker Jamie Collins, Sr. also returned to the practice fields, beginning his 21-day countdown for activation to the New England’s 53-man roster.
If either Collins or Langi (or both) are not activated within their allotted time of eligibility, they would revert back to injured reserve, thus ending their season.
BUFFALO BILLS (7-4)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE
WR Cole Beasley, Veteran Rest
FB Reggie Gilliam, Ankle
DT Star Lotulelei, Illness
LB Matt Milano, Shoulder
OL Cody Ford, Bicep
What It Means: Bills
Though the Bills listed two non-participants for Thursday’s practice, receiver Cole Beasley’s absence was the result of veteran rest. Therefore, his status for Monday night’s game appears to be in good standing.
Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who missed the last two games due to COVID protocols, was listed as a limited participant on Thursday with an illness Linebacker Matt Milano was also limited with a shoulder injury. While neither of these injuries is expected to sideline the players for Monday night, they are worth monitoring, especially for the Bills’ run defense.
Lotulelei is Buffalo’s premier run-stuffer, and his presence in the interior of the defensive line helps to solidify the roles of Ed Oliver, Harrison Phillips and Vernon Butler on the inside.
Milano is a key cog to the middle of Buffalo’s defense. His presence in the linebacking corps allows the Bills’ to stack the box more effectively, helping to facilitate their front seven in winning key battles at the line of scrimmage