Dennard, Gregory return to practice

New England Patriots' defensive backs Alfonzo Dennard and Steve Gregory returned to practice on Wednesday, but no one seems to know what to make of it.

Dennard's knee and Gregory's right thumb kept them out of Monday night's controversial loss to the Carolina Panthers, a game where both players' presence could have made all the difference for the Patriots' jacked up secondary.
Talib (left) and Gregory hope to play on Sunday night

As it was, by the end of the game, New England was down to free safety Devin McCourty, a gimpy Kyle Arrington, two rookies, two second-year special teamers and a career journeyman - not exactly a recipe for success - although, the Patriots actually played well enough on both sides of the ball to pull the game out...

...but no need to revisit the end of the game, which is still being lamented by fans and journalists alike, the former dining on the controversy and riding it as long as that gravy train still has wheels, however.

But the team has put that nightmare behind them and are focused on a nightmare of a different color, particularly the orange and blue of the despised Denver Broncos, featuring the "Hurry, hurry" happy feet of old nemesis Peyton Manning throwing to new nemesis and former Patriot Wes Welker - and since the New England secondary is far from healthy, perhaps it would be prudent to take a look at it on an individual basis:

Aqib Talib:  According to the star cover corner, he experienced tightness in his afflicted hip late in the Carolina game, the twinge coming when breaking up a pass play with just over five and a half minutes left in the game.  Both Talib and the team are calling his status day-to-day (imagine that!), with Talib going as far as to hint where he was at with the injury.

"It's all right, it's all right," Talib said Wednesday of the troublesome hip, "It tightened up on me a little bit towards the end of the game. It's fine though."

Kyle Arrington: The slot corner, who has had to double down as an outside-the-numbers cover corner at times this season, did not speak with the beat writers and the only information there is on the Hofstra University product is that he suffered a groin issue on Monday night that he worked through, though not at a pace that could keep up with Ginn.

Alfonzo Dennard:  The second year corner underwent a procedure to a meniscus in his right knee at some point in the past week, and though he was present and participating in practice on Wednesday, it is feared that Dennard will not be available to the active roster on Sunday night when the Patriots host the Denver Broncos.

How invasive the procedure on his meniscus is a matter of some conjecture, and depends on whether the injury is an ongoing and recurring issue or an acute tear.  If chronic, the procedure could have been nothing more than a cortisone injection to provide mobility to the joint that may have locked up, a common occurrence.

If acute, arthroscopic surgery is indicated wherein the orthopaedic surgeon makes a small incision and can trim the affected cartilage if the tear is anything other than a transverse tear (see image).  A transverse tear would require a more invasive procedure and take months to heal, in which case Dennard would probably have been placed on the season ending IR.  

Steve Gregory: The strong safety resumed practice on Wednesday, though how much he participated is not known.  However much it was, he did so with a solid cast protecting the injured appendage.  It had been reported soon after the injury occurred against the Steelers that Gregory would be able to resume playing within two or three weeks, which puts Sunday right in his wheelhouse...

...and truth be known, Gregory's presence would be the best of news when coupled with the availability of Talib to try and disable the Broncos' epic air attack by allowing McCourty some autonomy to move around in the secondary, as Gregory could pair with rookie Duron Harmon as the last line of defense and McCourty, a former cornerback, could move into Dennard's spot opposite Talib.

What this does is it allows Arrington to play in his normal slot position underneath, with rookie Logan Ryan and journeyman Marquice Cole coming onto the field in nickle and dime subpackages, respectively.

But this is purely speculation at this point, and much is still to be decided and revealed - though we may not know the status of any player until 90 minutes before game time on Sunday night.

Stand by...