FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — There were 23 players missing from New England Patriots practice on Saturday when running back Travaris Cadet walked off the field with a trainer and kicked the ground in disgust.
With more than a quarter of the roster injured, coach Bill Belichick believes the Super Bowl champs are a victim of their success.
Consistently going deep in the playoffs leads to shorter offseasons, less recovery time and more watching than doing at training camp.
“That’s really been a big challenge for us over the last 15 years,” Belichick said. “It’s a good problem to have, obviously, you want to play long into the season. But it definitely shortens the time period for the players to recover and be ready for the next year.”
Linebacker Donta Hightower may be the best example. Instead of having shoulder surgery in early January, his came in mid-February. Hightower has worn a red non-contact jersey throughout camp.
Other injuries are popping up in practice. The Patriots are so thin at receiver it’s unlikely they could have scrimmaged during the third straight workout in full pads.
Julian Edelman hasn’t practiced in a week. Aaron Dobson missed his third straight workout. Brandon LaFell remains on the physically unable to perform list. Brian Tyms is hurt, too.
Cadet was getting more reps after LeGarrette Blount injured his right knee Friday. Fellow running backs Dion Lewis and Tyler Gaffney didn’t practice.
Rookie defensive tackle Malcolm Brown missed his first practice Saturday. With center Bryan Stork sidelined, Josh Kline was often snapping the ball to Tom Brady and backup Jimmy Garoppolo. Third-string quarterback Matt Flynn hasn’t practiced all camp.
“You’ve got to be versatile,” Kline said. “Doing whatever I can to help out the team.”
With all the players banged up and Brady’s impending four-game suspension for his alleged role in deflating footballs in the AFC title game, there is much uncertainty on the depth chart.
“It’s definitely something that we’ve had to deal with through the years,” said Belichick, who has led New England to four Super Bowl titles. “Particularly a year like this, where a lot of players after the length of the season and what happened at the end of the season, some postseason activities and parades and this and that.
“Sometimes (rehab) gets pushed another week, 10 days, two weeks back, which comes up here on the other end.”
New England won’t release injury information, but Belichick said ligament injuries and surgeries are what often take longer to recover from. It means the Patriots, who have played in two Super Bowls and two other AFC title game appearances in the past four seasons, are often playing catch up in camp.
“Timing and the ability to get some of those things taken care of at the end of the season is not always optimal for us as relative to some other teams,” Belichick said. “It’s definitely a challenge.
“Fortunately, or unfortunately, however you want to look at it, we have a lot of experience with it. And we’ve learned to work in that time frame to bring players back at the right pace.”
NOTES: A Patriots spokesman said Brady won’t talk to reporters until after his court case against the league is resolved. . Hours before the late Junior Seau was to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Belichick said his passion for the game made the ex-Patriot stand out. “All of us who interacted with him feel privileged to have had that opportunity,” Belichick said. . TE Jimmay Mundine was the lone player to return from injury Saturday. . The team won’t practice Sunday.