FOXBORO -- Tom Brady, Rob Ninkovich and Dont'a Hightower were the three players missing from practice on Wednesday as the Patriots practiced outdoors on the lower practice field in sweats and shells. For Brady, it was just his second missed practice of the season.
Brady also missed practice during the bye week in last year's playoffs but returned to practice the following week. Wes Welker, Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer also missed practice last year in the bye but all three were on hand on Wednesday.
Ninkovich suffered a left hip injury in the second quarter of Sunday's win and did not return. Initial concern has been replaced by cautious optimism after reports surfaced that he suffered only strained muscles in the hip and is likely to be cleared for the Patriots' next game in the AFC divisional round at Gillette on Jan. 13.
Hightower has been nursing hamstring and shoulder injuries.
The Patriots will practice again on Thursday before getting a three-day weekend, courtesy of the No. 2 seed they earned by beating the Dolphins last week and a Houston loss to Indianapolis.
For more, visit the Patriots team page at weei.com/patriots .