Illness runs through Patriots locker room, sidelining eight at practice

The Patriots were not at full strength for Wednesday’s practice. –jonathan wiggs

FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots’ defense has often been described with the complimentary slang term “sick’’ this season, as it has consistently shut down — and taken the ball away from — opponents.

Now, unfortunately, the description has become a literal term. Four of the club’s defensive starters were among eight players that missed Wednesday’s shorts-and-shells practice. Linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, and safety Patrick Chung — all key cogs to the Patriots’ second-ranked defense — sat out the session.

Additionally, cornerback Joejuan Williams and three offensive players — tackle Isaiah Wynn, guard Jermaine Eluemunor, and tight end Ryan Izzo — were held out.

Bill Belichick has always been a fan of Romeo Crennel.