FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Left tackle Matt Light, one of three injured starters on the New England Patriots’ offensive line, has taken the first step toward returning to the lineup.

Light hasn’t played since suffering what the team said was a right ankle injury in the third game of the season. Although he has not returned to practice yet, this week he was upgraded from out to doubtful on the injury report.

“It’s coming along great,” Light said of his rehabilitation. “There haven’t been any major setbacks, so that’s a good thing.”

Running back Kevin Faulk also was upgraded from out to doubtful for Sunday’s home game against New Orleans. Faulk injured his foot in a Week 3 win in Pittsburgh. He was hurt making a reception on the game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. He also has not returned to practice since his injury.

“We upgraded them because their conditions improved,” coach Bill Belichick said. “They had trouble walking a few weeks ago. Now they’re past that point. So, it’s definitely improved.”

Center Dan Koppen suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in last week’s win in Miami. Right tackle Tom Ashworth sat out that game with a knee injury and has not practiced this week.

Light said he did not know when he would be able to play again. He had started 66 straight games, including playoffs, before getting hurt.

“It’s an injury, and every injury is different,” Light said. “Every person deals with an injury differently. I’ve been getting better. That’s a good thing. I take it day by day.”

Rookie Nick Kaczur has started the last five games at left tackle, playing next to rookie left guard Logan Mankins. With Faulk out, the Patriots first turned to fullback Patrick Pass to back up starter Corey Dillon. Pass suffered a hamstring injury and has missed the last two games, although he returned to practice this week.

Dillon has been slowed by ankle and calf problems.

Fullback Heath Evans and running back Mike Cloud were the ball carriers last week. Neither player was with the team at the start of the season.

Evans rushed for 84 yards on 17 carries against the Dolphins, who released him last month.


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