Patriots wide receiver DeVante Parker returned to practice on Friday as he continues his recovery form a concussion. Doug Murray/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH — A trio of key Patriots returned to the backfields at Gillette Stadium for New England’s final practice of the week.

DeVante Parker (concussion), Trent Brown (ankle/knee) and Davon Godchaux (illness) were all back on Friday morning, while Calvin Anderson (illness) was the lone absence. Josh Uche (ankle/toe) began the session on the lower conditioning fields but eventually joined his teammates during stretching.

Of the group of returnees, it’ll be fascinating to see whether Parker can clear the concussion protocol for Sunday’s game with the Commanders. Nobody on the Patriots roster has done that in less than a week since the start of last season.

With Kendrick Bourne on injured reserve, the receiver group may look a whole lot different this weekend if Parker is sidelined, too. Kayshon Boutte and Tyquan Thornton – both healthy scratches in Miami – would likely return to the lineup.

“Like some other guys that aren’t able to play, it gives other players opportunities, and we’ll see what they do with them,” Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said when asked about Bourne’s absence. “Some guys have stepped in and really done a really good job for us – (Anfernee) Jennings, Mike (Onwenu) playing right tackle, you just go right down the line. Pop (Demario Douglas), those guys that have had opportunities that have stepped in, played well and helped themselves, (Christian) Barmore. Yeah, we’ll see how it goes at that spot.”

WITH BOUTTE on the cusp of returning to the lineup this weekend, Belichick likes what he’s seen on the practice field ahead of Sunday’s game with the Commanders.


“I think this has probably been his best week,” Belichick said.

The rookie out of LSU hasn’t played since Week 1, but with Bourne on injured reserve and Parker battling a concussion, Sunday’s game represents the first time in almost two months that the sixth-rounder might be back in the lineup.

“Performance, consistency, assignments, production,” Belichick said when asked why this is Boutte’s best week of practice. “I mean, practice is practice, but it’s still – there are opportunities out there for everybody. You either take advantage of them or don’t take advantage of them.”

Speaking at his locker on Thursday, Boutte admitted it hasn’t been easy watching from the sideline since he was shutout in the season opener, but said he’ll be ready when he’s told to take the field.

“It’s been difficult. Coming from college and playing every game,” Boutte said. “Just that translating to the NFL. Playing Week 1, unfortunately things happened the way they (did), but it’s part of the game, you know? Just a learning experience.

“It’s been seven weeks. Now my name is being called. So I’ve just gotta step up.”


DURING HIS FRIDAY morning press conference, Belichick honored Bob Knight, a longtime friend and legendary basketball coach who died Wednesday at age 83.

“I had a good relationship with Coach Knight. Very sad, the last few years have been tough,” Belichick said. “I met coach Knight when I was probably under 10, known him my whole adult life. He and my dad were good friends and Coach (Bill) Parcells, so I saw a lot of Coach Knight. Learned a lot from him, enjoyed my time with him.

“Wonderful man, and obviously a great coach, up there in the big five in basketball. Mike (Krzyzewski) kind of in from the same tree with (Adolph) Rupp and (John) Wooden. Unfortunately, tough loss for coaching.”

Knight was among the most successful and controversial coaches in college basketball history. He won 902 career games between Army, Indiana and Texas Tech. He also led the United States men’s basketball team to Olympic gold in 1984.

Knight met Parcells in 1966 when Parcells was hired to be Army’s linebackers coach and Knight took over as the school’s head basketball coach.

The two grew close and later became mentors to Belichick.

Earlier this year, Belichick revealed on Tom Brady’s SiriusXM podcast, “Let’s Go,” that he learned to criticize all players equally from Knight. During their legendary 20-year together, it became known that Belichick would berate Brady in team meetings, even as Brady was on a path to becoming the greatest quarterback of all time. Belichick said making an example of him was intentional.

“Where I got that from was Coach Knight, because Coach Knight told me that’s what he did with Michael Jordan on the Olympic team,” Belichick said. “He said, ‘Michael, I’m going to rip your (expletive) because I can’t rip some of those other guys without ripping you.’”

He later added: “Players, they’d always come back to me and say, ‘Hey, the first meeting Belichick got on Brady. I’m like, Christ, if he’s going to talk to Brady like that I’d better be straight. I know what’s going to happen to me.’­”

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