Patriots

Patriots notebook: Tom Brady’s ailments have given backups practice opportunities

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady still has a leg up on Jarrett Stidham (4) and Cody Kessler, but the two backups are getting a heavier practice workload this season. Steven Senne

FOXBOROUGH — There have been a few instances in practice this season where quarterback Tom Brady “hasn’t been able to do a lot,’’ according to Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

“That’s given [Jarrett Stidham] an opportunity to go with the first group and run our plays and run our offense,’’ Belichick said Tuesday morning at Gillette Stadium. “That’s been good for him. That’s also given Cody [Kessler] an opportunity to run more of the scout-team plays because Jarrett’s not taking those.’’

Brady hasn’t missed a game this year but has been limited in multiple practices with various injuries, most recently his right elbow. Brady walked into Empower Fieldhouse on Tuesday afternoon with only his left arm in the sleeves of his blue jacket. His right arm hung straight down, as he held the jacket closed with his left hand.

Advertisement:

According to the injury report, Brady was a full participant in the team’s walkthrough. The session presumably was light, with players dressed in sweats and not jerseys or pads. During the portion of the walkthrough open to the media, Brady did not wear a brace or have any sort of wrap on his right elbow. He loosened up with team, stretched, and threw a couple passes.

Although Belichick praised both Stidham and Kessler for filling in as needed, he noted having Brady healthy is obviously the preferred option.

“They’ve taken advantage of it, and I think it’s helped,’’ Belichick said. “I mean, you don’t always want to do it that way. Sometimes it’s best to do things that way, and then that’s good for everybody. But, you know, we want everybody out there as healthy as they can be. That’s ultimately the goal, but it’s not always that way.’’

Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett said Brady’s availability hasn’t affected their ability to continue to cultivate a relationship.

“We get a lot of reps behind the scenes, too,’’ Dorsett said. “At the end of the day, it’s not just what we do on the field, it’s what we do in between sessions, too. We’re always doing different things to try and get on the same page.’’

Plenty at stake Saturday

Saturday’s divisional matchup is a “hat and T-shirt game’’ for the Patriots.

Advertisement:

If the reigning Super Bowl champions beat the Buffalo Bills, they will clinch the AFC East for the 11th season straight season. If the Patriots win and the Kansas City Chiefs lose to the Chicago Bears on Sunday night, then New England will clinch at least the AFC’s No. 2 seed as well.

“We got a lot of guys in the building that understand what this is,’’ Dorsett said. “We all know what we’re fighting for. They [the Bills] know what they’re fighting for. They’re trying to take it from us. We got to go out with that same mentality.’’

“We’re playing for a lot of rights,’’ added defensive tackle Danny Shelton.

Dorsett, who hadn’t experienced postseason football before getting traded to the Patriots in September 2017, still cherishes the opportunity to compete in the playoffs.

“It’s something I’ve had to get used to here because I played basically two extra months of football,’’ he said. “There are what — 12 teams that make it every year? Out of 32. That’s a little.’’

Injury updates

Cornerback Jonathan Jones (groin) was the lone non-participant in Tuesday’s walkthrough. Jones gingerly walked off the field late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against the Bengals. Four other players — Ja’Whaun Bentley (knee), Julian Edelman (knee/shoulder), Jason McCourty (groin), and Shelton (shoulder) — were limited . . . Several players had an early holiday present waiting for them at their lockers. Those represented by the sports agency Athletes First all received a large box containing a mini-fridge . . .  Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, special teamer Matthew Slater, and linebacker Dont’a Hightower were named to the 2020 Pro Bowl, the league announced Tuesday . . . James White said players are ignoring the noise, as the organization awaits the NFL’s punishment in response to the latest videotaping scandal. “Can’t control anything that happens outside the building,’’ White said. “For us, we’re focusing on the Buffalo Bills and trying to prepare and trying to get a win versus those guys on Saturday.’’

Conversation

This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com