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Patriots notebook

Brady good enough to practice

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / December 24, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — As if the foot and ever-present right shoulder injuries weren’t enough trouble for quarterback Tom Brady, he entered this week’s preparation for Sunday’s game against the Bills battling the flu.

Brady missed practice on Wednesday, but appears to be on the road to recovery, returning to practice yesterday in a limited capacity. The flu notation next to Brady’s name also was removed from the Patriots’ injury report.

Brady’s weekly Wednesday news conference was pushed back to yesterday, then postponed until today.

At this time of year, with bodies weakened because of the stresses of a long season, players also have to be aware of illness.

“I think right about now, with the weather changing, there is going to be a lot of illness running around,’’ said wide receiver Deion Branch. “[We’re] trying to make sure we’re pumping in the fluids in our body, getting the proper rest, eating the right foods, trying to be more of a true professional right now.’’

If Brady needs more time away from the field to get healthy, Branch doesn’t expect it to affect his preparation.

“We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do, whatever it takes to get Tom up to full strength. If he needs to rest two or three days, that’s what he’s got to do,’’ Branch said.

Knowing their limits Six Patriots did not practice yesterday, but the defensive line appears to be on the mend. Myron Pryor (back) returned for the first time in weeks, while Ron Brace (concussion) was limited for the second consecutive day and Brandon Deaderick (shoulder) was limited after missing practice on Wednesday.

Tully Banta-Cain (groin), Dan Connolly (concussion), Jermaine Cunningham (calf), Aaron Hernandez (hip), Mike Wright (concussion), and Branch (knee) did not practice.

With so many players missing, linebacker Rob Ninkovich said the preparation off the field could become more important.

“The more tape you watch, you’re going to be more prepared out there because they’re going to do some things on tape that they’re going to do in the game,’’ Ninkovich said. “So, obviously, if you can get some keys off of that, you would be able to play a little bit faster. If you can see what’s going on in your head before it even happens, you’re going to be ahead of the game.’’

Running interference Branch and Wes Welker are being noticed for more than their pass-catching skills. Against the Packers last Sunday, Branch took part in a series of blocks that sprung BenJarvus Green-Ellis for a 33-yard touchdown.

“I think what’s important is that the guys don’t get a lot of credit for the things that they do for us when we catch a pass,’’ Branch said. “I know BenJarvus is doing everything he can to give Tom time to throw me the ball. We have to do that in return.’’

Branch had two catches for 33 yards and Welker three catches for 42 yards against the Packers. While their receptions were limited, Branch said there are other ways they can chip in.

“Each game everybody wants to go out and throw the ball 100 times, but we can’t do that,’’ Branch said. “The biggest thing is I’m here to do whatever coach [Bill Belichick] asks me to do. I want to catch the balls too, but if I have to block 20 to 30 times a game, that’s what I have to do.’’

Branch said he and Welker are feeding off of each other throughout the game to drive the other’s performance.

“Mentally, we have this competition thing, ‘Hey I’m going try to outdo you and I’m going to try to do the same thing.’ It’s not a competition thing or a jealous thing if he get 10 balls and I get three. I’m going to try to make the best with those three and he’ll do the same with those 10.’’

Place of honor Connolly was honored as the AFC’s special teams player of the week for his 71-yard kickoff return against the Packers, and yesterday the play became an instant classic honored by The Hall at Patriot Place.

Connolly’s jersey from the 31-27 victory and the ball and other items associated with the return are on display.

“Patriots history has its share of unique moments and this one ranks up there,’’ said Bryan Morry, executive director of The Hall at Patriot Place. “I’ve never seen an offensive lineman break off a return even closely resembling that. It not only set a record, but was a great visual. We are thrilled that we have the capability to honor the play and the player at the hall with such immediacy.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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