FOXBORO -- It’s a small sample size, but it appears the Patriots may have found their next great undrafted gem in Brandon Bolden. 

FOXBORO -- Tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski were at practice for the first time this week on Thursday, but both Hernandez (ankle) and Gronkowski (hip) were both limited in their activity. The two tight ends were among the 13 players who were limited, a group that included quarterback Tom Brady (right shoulder) for the second consecutive day as the Patriots continued preparing to meet the Broncos Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Here's the complete report:


Did Not Practice

FOXBORO -- In an indication that he has made stunning progress from a right ankle sprain, tight end Aaron Hernandez returned to Patriots practice on Thursday afternoon, as the team practice in sweats and shells outside Gillette Stadium. 

Hernandez hasn't practiced with the team since getting injured in the first quarter of New England's 20-18 loss to the Cardinals at Gillette on Sept. 16. 

Rob Gronkowski (hip) and Michael Hoomanawanui (concussion), both absent on Wednesday, returned to practice on Thursday as well. 

FOXBORO -- After collecting three sacks and five quarterback hits in his first four NFL games, Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones was honored Thursday as NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for September. 

Jones broke onto the scene in his first game, with a strip-sack of Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker, causing a fumble that was recovered by fellow rookie Dont'a Hightower and returned six yards for a touchdown in New England's 34-13 win. 

FOXBORO -- Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will meet for the 13th time in their great rivalry on Sunday, and for the first time Manning will be wearing a Broncos uniform. Brady holds a 6-3 regular season edge and a 2-1 advantage in the playoffs. Manning, 36, is coming off four surgeries to stabilize the nerves in his neck. Manning said in a conference call with Patriots beat reporters Wednesday that he does not have an idea of how much longer he'll be playing, pointing out that the 35-year-old Brady has indicated that he'd like to play until he's 40. 

FOXBORO -- There are few similarities between last year’s Broncos offense and this year’s squad.

FOXBORO -- Quarterback Tom Brady (right shoulder) and running back Brandon Bolden (knee) were among the 10 players listed on the Patriots injury report on Wednesday. That's in addition to the five players who were not at practice on Wednesday -- wide receiver Julian Edelman (hand), safety Steve Gregory (hip), tight end Rob Gronkowski (hip), tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle) and tight end Michael Moomanawanui (concussion).


Here's the complete injury report:


Did Not Practice

FOXBORO -- For the first time in their legendary rivalry, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be facing Peyton Manning in a game not involving the Colts. Manning comes to Foxboro on Sunday with the 2-2 Broncos while Brady also leads his 2-2 team into action. Brady leads the all-time series between the two, 8-4, including 2-1 in the postseason.

FOXBORO -- Logan Mankins returned to Patriots practice in shorts and shells on the damp grass practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. It was the first practice for the starting left guard since Sept. 21. Mankins missed all of last week with a hip injury and did not travel with the team to Buffalo for Sunday's win over the Bills. 

Also on hand for the start of practice was rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who suffered a hamstring injury in the first half of Sunday's game. 

FOXBORO -- After leading the Patriots to 45 second-half points and scores on their final seven possessions against the Bills in a 52-28 win, Tom Brady was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday. It is the 21st time in his career that Brady has received the honor, matching Denver’s Peyton Manning for the most Player of the Week awards since the accolade was instituted in 1984. Brady and Manning will square off late Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.