They might not be back to full strength, but the Patriots are at least getting closer to having a full complement of tight ends again.
According to Mike Rodak of ESPNBoston.com, tight end Aaron Hernandez returned to practice Thursday for the first time since his ankle injury on Sept. 16.
Hernandez has missed the last two games, and since the Patriots scored 82 points in those, it’s hard to say his absence crippled them. But his versatility in the passing game gives them options they can use (even if it cuts into some of Wes Welker’s work).
Fellow tight ends Rob Gronkowski (hip) and Michael Hoomanawanui (concussion) returned to practice Thursday as well after missing Wednesday.
Missing Thursday’s work were cornerback Ras-I Dowling, safety Steve Gregory and receiver Julian Edelman.