FOXBOROUGH — Aaron Hernandez had a travel bag sitting in front of his locker, with shoulder pads, cleats, and some gloves already packed. It was an encouraging sign the Patriots tight end was prepared not only to travel to Seattle, but play Sunday against the Seahawks.
But there were concerns about Hernandez’s availability when he was not spotted during the media-access portion and did not practice during Friday’s session at Gillette Stadium. He was one of 14 players listed as questionable on the injury report.
“We’ll just have to see how it goes here in practice,’’ coach Bill Belichick said before the team held its final workout before departing for Seattle.
“He came back late last week and did some things [Thursday] and Wednesday,’’ Belichick said. “So, we’ll see how it is today and see if it set him back or didn’t set him back, how that went. We’ll have a day to evaluate it on Saturday, see where we’re at on Sunday, so he’ll be a game-time decision. We may well know sooner depending on the information we get before we leave. We’ll just have to see how it goes.’’
Hernandez, who injured his right ankle against Arizona Sept. 16, returned to practice last Thursday in a limited capacity. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, who started Sept. 30 at Buffalo but was inactive for last Sunday’s 31-21 victory over the Broncos because of a concussion, returned to practice Friday but was also listed as questionable.
It followed the return of wide receiver Julian Edelman (hand), who did not practice Wednesday but returned Thursday in a limited capacity. He is also questionable.
Given the nature of Hernandez’s injury, Belichick was asked if he was encouraged to see the versatile tight end back on the practice field last week.
“It’s great to see every player back out there,’’ Belichick said. “Any time we have a player come back and practice, like Julian [Thursday], Aaron last week, whoever it is, it’s good to see every player back out there practicing. I don’t care what injury they’re coming off of, it’s good to see everybody back out there. It means they’re closer to being able to help our team and doing what we’ll need for them to do sooner or later. That’s always good.’’
The trip to Seattle begins a challenging stretch of travel for the Patriots.
They return home to host the Jets next Sunday, before heading the following week to London to face the Rams Oct. 28.
“Right now it’s just one week at a time,’’ Belichick said. “That’s the furthest thought from my mind. We’re just trying to get through this week and go out there and play well against Seattle.’’
Belichick lauded Seahawks coach Pete Carroll for turning one of the more veteran rosters in the NFL into the third youngest with an average age of 26 years, 103 days.
“They have a lot of good, young players,’’ Belichick said. “Pete’s put together a great football team. I think he’s done a great job of turning that roster over and he’s got a lot of young players, but they’re good.’’
Patriots safety Steve Gregory (hip) and linebacker Tracy White (foot), both of whom did not practice this week, were listed as out for Sunday. The other players listed as questionable were tight end Rob Gronkowski (hip), wide receiver Wes Welker (ankle), tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee), guard Logan Mankins (calf/hip), running backs Brandon Bolden (knee) and Shane Vereen (foot), and linebacker Dont’a Hightower (hamstring).
Loud and clear
While so much has been made about CenturyLink Field being one of the noisiest venues in the NFL, Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones doesn’t think it will be much of an advantage to the Seahawks.
“Whenever you play [on the road], there’s going to be a noisy crowd, but not when the offense is out there, so it doesn’t really affect the defense,’’ Jones said.
One would have assumed Jones would be accustomed to noisy environments, having played at Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.
“Ah, no,’’ he said. “We didn’t have a lot of fans, so it wasn’t that loud.’’