Prior to the NFL kickoff game, the Patriots already knew that they would be playing the entire season without a critical component to their offense: Julian Edelman. During the team’s preseason contest against the Detroit Lions, the 31-year-old wide receiver went down with a torn ACL that will require surgery.
Little did New England know, however, that Edelman would be the first of multiple players to go down with an injury. During the Patriots preseason finale against the New York Giants a week later, cornerback Cyrus Jones suffered a torn ACL and partially torn meniscus. He has also been ruled out for the season, leaving a major void in the position of punt returner.
The start to the regular season only saw the team’s roster continue to thin. Dont’a Hightower, who started training camp on the “physically unable to perform” list, went down during the season opener with a knee injury as well. Patriots fans were relieved to hear it was only a minor MCL sprain, but the linebacker still sat out Week 2 as one of New England’s seven inactive players in New Orleans. ESPN’s Mike Reiss reports that Hightower is seeking a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews.
Also on the list of Sunday’s inactives was wide receiver Danny Amendola, who exited the field during the fourth quarter of Week 1’s contest against the Chiefs. It was later confirmed that he suffered from a concussion, the third of his career. Amendola is also nursing a knee injury, and the timetable for his return is unclear.
While no major injuries headlined Sunday’s game against the Saints, the Patriots downgraded a handful of players to “questionable” throughout the contest.
On New Orleans’ opening drive of the second half, cornerback Eric Rowe—who started the game over Malcolm Butler—removed himself on account of a groin injury. The 24-year-old left the field, entered the team’s medical tent, and paid a visit to the locker room, but was later spotted back on the sidelines with his helmet on. According to NESN’s Doug Kyed, Rowe said he just needs a little rehab.
As the third quarter continued, more Patriots appeared to be banged up. After catching Tom Brady’s first touchdown of the day, Rex Burkhead did not return in the second half due to a rib injury. The running back missed four consecutive series and was seated on the bench with athletic trainer Jim Whalen before moving to the locker room. He declined to speak with reporters following the game.
As Burkhead treated his ribs, a gimpy Chris Hogan also started to exhibit signs of wear. The wide receiver was spotted limping around the field at various points, prompting trainers to stretch and ice his right knee on the sidelines. Though seemingly not 100 percent, Hogan continued to make catches throughout the majority of the half.
Speaking to reporters after the game, the 28-year-old dismissed the injury and insisted that he was feeling fine. When asked if he was good to go, Hogan responded: “Always.”
Chris Hogan says he's fine pic.twitter.com/rzYYPFkFOi
— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) September 17, 2017
The fourth quarter of the game was marked by Rob Gronkowski‘s visit to the medical tent. After landing a bit off following a Saints’ tackle, Gronkowski immediately took himself off the field in clear pain. Patriots fans were relieved to hear that it was not his back, but his groin, that required attention. The tight end did not return to the contest but was spotted riding a stationary bike on the sidelines.
During post-game interviews, Gronk declined to speak with the media but did flash a smile to say, “I’m good.” According to CSNNE’s Tom Curran, he plans to reconvene on Monday.
Gronk smiled and said "I'm good" before walking out.
— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) September 17, 2017
Newly acquired wide receiver Phillip Dorsett was the final Patriot to head into the blue tent. As the fourth quarter neared the end, the Patriots listed him as questionable with a left knee injury.