Running back Kevin Faulk and defensive linemen Ron Brace and Brandon Deaderick returned to practice Tuesday, the first day they were eligible after starting the season on the physically unable to perform list.
The “PUP” list forbids players to practice with the team or play for the first six games of the season as they heal from injuries. NFL rules allow for up to three weeks from the time a player is activated from the PUP list to determine whether on not to activate him. If the player does not begin practicing, or is not activated by the three weeks, he must be placed on the season-ending injured reserve list.
Assuming Faulk, Brace, and Deaderick are healthy and find roles with this team, could they help?
Faulk (33) is the most intriguing. This is his 12th season with the team and he has always been one of the most versatile members. The challenge for the 35-year-old is how he will fit into a crowded backfield. The Patriots drafted two backs with high picks in Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, crowding a depth chart topped by BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.
Faulk, the longest-tenured player on the Patriots’ roster, still can be a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, but his knowledge and leadership are much more of an asset to the Patriots.
Brace (97), a second-round pick in 2009, suffered a season-ending elbow injury in a Week 16 win in Buffalo last season. It continued the slow start to his NFL career. He only played in nine games in his rookie season, and last year he failed his conditioning test at the start of year which caused him to miss the first two games. He is competing for an interior spot in the Patriots’ 4-3 defense.
Brace must find a way to crack a rotation that features Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth, Kyle Love, and Gerard Warren.
Deaderick (71), a seventh-round pick made five starts in his rookie season, including a postseason loss to the New York Jets. He played mainly at an end last season but has the versatility to move across the line.
Coach Bill Belichick said about Deaderick, “He played end, he played tackle, he played nose — in their four-man line, he played outside [and] he played inside. I think you could look at the Alabama tape and you could see him pretty much playing everywhere — left side, right side, inside, outside.”
These players already know the system and the Patriot way. If activated they provide depth and could become important for the playoff push.