Back to work: Patriots return to practice after bye week

the start of the game at gillette stadium

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Fresh off their bye week, the New England Patriots returned to the practice field Tuesday and players said they took advantage of the time off to get their bodies ready for the second half of the season.

The Patriots, 7-1 after reeling off four wins with Tom Brady back following his “Deflategate” suspension, open their second half at home Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks.

“It was nice. Much-needed rest, mentally and physically, so hopefully everybody maximized that time, and time to get back to work,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said before practice. “Our focus just needs to be as high as it’s been all season and worry about preparing for Seattle. It will be one of the best teams that we’ll see at any point in the season, so we have to be ready for the challenge.”

With some of their bumps and bruises healed. This is a healthy team that will have back running back Dion Lewis either this week or Nov. 20 at San Francisco.

Wide receiver Chris Hogan was excited about returning to work.

“We’ve got a big game coming up,” he said. “Sunday night. It’s easy to get excited for something like that, so we’ll spend this week preparing ourselves for the game.”

Added linebacker Rob Ninkovich: “It was nice to get a little time to watch some football and spend time with the family. Now it’s back to work.”

The team traded Pro Bowl linebacker Jamie Collins to Cleveland at the start of the break.

To cap off their week, the Patriots got to watch their next opponent play Monday Night Football, giving them a look at two mobile quarterbacks, Tyrod Taylor, whom they just faced in Buffalo, and Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who nearly beat them in the Super Bowl two years ago.

“It’s difficult any time you have a guy that’s mobile that can make every throw on the field, is very accurate, is a very good quarterback in the pocket and yet when things aren’t looking so good he can pull the ball down and try to run for a first down,” Ninkovich said.

Asked again about attacking the rest of the season refreshed, the 31-year-old Slater said: “It’s definitely needed. An NFL season is a grind on you physically — especially when they start to add up, when you get a little bit up there, so to speak. That rest is needed. I think we did a good job, from what I’ve seen, of taking advantage of it. Hopefully it will benefit us down the stretch.”

NOTES: While the players didn’t want to comment on who they were voting for, or on the letter of support Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said he received from coach Bill Belichick, Slater made it clear he planned to vote. “Tonight . after practice,” he said. “My mom, my wife . I’m getting a text today to make sure I vote. Too many people . especially as an African-American, in America, too many people have had to sacrifice . and die for me to have the right to vote, so I definitely need to exercise that.” . Hogan also said he was going to vote and that there wasn’t much chatter about it in the locker room. “The locker room, I don’t think, is really a huge place for guys to really talk politics,” he said. “There’s always a couple of guys in here that will be in here butting heads or something like that.”

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