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Patriots notebook

Brady returns to practice

Left shoulder limits workout

Tom Brady’s right arm seemed fine, but he was on the injury report because of his left shoulder. Tom Brady’s right arm seemed fine, but he was on the injury report because of his left shoulder. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / December 30, 2011
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FOXBOROUGH - After missing practice Wednesday, reportedly to undergo X-rays on his left shoulder, Tom Brady was back on the field yesterday.

Brady, who was listed as limited yesterday because of his shoulder, is expected to play in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Bills.

The Patriots said the reason he missed Wednesday’s practice was not injury-related. According to a league source, Wednesday was a scheduled off day for him.

Brady appeared to injure the shoulder in last Saturday’s win over the Dolphins when linebacker Cameron Wake drove him into the ground.

Brady hasn’t missed a game since 2008, when he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in the season opener against the Chiefs.

In 2009, he played with three cracked ribs, and last season he played with a chronic foot injury, for which he had offseason surgery.

Brady needs 103 passing yards for his first 5,000-yard season.

Difficult time

This season has been the least productive of Shaun Ellis’s 12-year career. The defensive end started the first seven games, but because of injury and ineffectiveness, his role has diminished. His sack last week was his first of the season, and he has just 14 tackles.

“It’s been challenging,’’ Ellis said. “It’s been a little difficult, but just hanging in there, just trying to lend my hand when I can. When my number is called, I just go out there and play.

“In the end, I’m a pro. So I just go about my business as usual. Once that time comes, I’m ready for it.’’

Ellis had hip surgery before signing a one-year, $4 million deal with the Patriots last summer.

Incentive is there

After starting 4-2 - including a 34-31 win over the Patriots in Week 3 - the Bills blew a hole in their season with a seven-game losing streak, but if they have anything left to play for, its sweeping the division champs.

The Patriots haven’t been swept by a division rival since 2000, when they went 5-11 and were swept by both the Jets and Dolphins.

“We owe them one,’’ said defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. “They haven’t been beating us a lot lately, but I’m sure it would feel good for them to come in and sweep us.

“Regardless of the records, to be able to sweep a division rival is pretty sweet. I’m pretty sure they’re coming in here thinking they have a real good shot.’’

The Bills are looking to end their season on a high note.

“It would definitely give us a lot of momentum going into the offseason, so we’re looking forward to the challenge,’’ said running back C.J. Spiller. “I don’t remember the last time a Patriots team has been swept. We’re not concerned about that. We’re just concerned about trying to play our best football.’’

Mankins, Vollmer out

Logan Mankins (knee) and Sebastian Vollmer (back/foot) were the only Patriots to miss practice yesterday. In addition to Brady, the limited players were Kyle Arrington, Branch, Patrick Chung, Dan Connolly, Julian Edelman, Dane Fletcher, James Ihedigbo, Matt Light, Devin McCourty, Rob Ninkovich, Matthew Slater, Brandon Spikes, Shane Vereen, Brian Waters, Wes Welker, and Tracy White . . . The Patriots released defensive end Alex Silvestro, who was signed to the 53-man roster last week and made his NFL debut against the Dolphins.

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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