Foxboro -- Rex Burkhead, who has been activated off injured reserve, is excited about potentially playing Sunday. Burkhead has not played since being placed on injured reserve after the Pats Week 3 loss to the Detroit Lions. Burkhead, who recently became a father with a little boy, should give the Pats a much needed boost in the running game. The Pats now have two true running backs in Burkhead and Sony Michel in addition to the pass-catching machine that is James White. Burkhead said the most difficult part is learning the little things again. Of course, a long rehab from a neck injury was not easy.
"I controlled what I could control and worked my tail off to get back," Burkhead said. "The training staff did an excellent job of keeping me in shape."
If there is one benefit to missing the last eight games, Burkhead took the time to reflect on the game from a distance.
"You definitely notice some things watching the games on television that you wouldn't on the field," Burkhead said.
Burkhead was impressed with the play of Cordarrelle Patterson in emergency duty at running back against the Green Bay Packers. With the teams needing a running back, it hurt Burkhead not to be out there. Burkhead also continues to admire James White as a complete back who is like a coach on the field.
"He is a great leader who doesn't say a lot. Last year, I could always go to him with questions. He is one of the smartest players I have ever been around. He sees a lot of things other running backs don't see," Burkhead said
Devin McCourty Has More Appreciation
McCourty, 31, has an appreciation for late season games as he is only likely to play one or two more years and there is even the possibility that McCourty could be playing his final season. McCourty has won two Super Bowls and doesn't take these games for granted.
"I think, as you get older, you just understand each game is so important – not even later [in the season] – because you just don’t know how much longer you’ll play. So, each season kind of becomes more valuable to you personally. You get in the 30-and-up club, kind of, and you just don’t know. So, I wouldn’t just say now, late November, early December is more important. I would say every game this season and really the last couple years is just important just not knowing what the future holds and how many games you have left in you," McCourty said.
Some might want the Pats to call more safety blitzes. It is not something that McCourty worries about.
"I just do what they ask. That’s the easiest way to keep your job," McCourty said.
Notes: Pats had full attendance at practice Thursday, but Rob Gronkowski was back on the injury report with ankle and back issues. Tom Brady, Dwayne Allen (who returned Thursday) and Nate Ebner were limited with knee issues. Vikings WR Stefon Diggs missed practice for the second straight day. It is still likely that Diggs plays. It will be interesting to see if Stephon Gilmore can cover Diggs in single coverage given the speed of Diggs.