If anyone can beat the New England Patriots down the regular-season stretch, maybe it’s the flu bug.
Eight players missed practice due to illness on Wednesday, including five starters — All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore, safety Patrick Chung, linebackers Jamie Collins Sr. and Dont’a Hightower, and left tackle Isaiah Wynn (left tackle).
Also missing practice because they were ill were cornerback Joejuan Williams, tight end Ryan Izzo and offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor.
The outbreak reportedly is the worst case of the flu during Bill Belichick’s coaching tenure.
“This is probably, for me, in my 10 years here, the most guys I’ve seen just be gone from being sick,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said after practice, the first in preparation for a game at the Houston Texans on Sunday. “No injuries or anything, we just had guys come in and you look in their eyes and you could just tell they were just out of it. Hopefully, a day at home and meds and rest can help guys out.”
Starting offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, who was also ill on the Friday before last Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, was limited in practice Wednesday.
“We’re all working together on this — the player, the medical staff and the coaching staff,” Belichick said about the decision to let Cannon play. “Unless the player is cleared medically, there’s no conversation to be had. If the player is cleared medically, then it enters into some element of a coaching, player conversation. As I said, each one is different, and we just try to do the best we can.”
After improving to 10-1 with a hard-fought 13-9 victory over the visiting Cowboys in the wind and the rain, the Patriots were encouraged by Belichick to do anything they can to get healthy for this week’s game against the Houston Texans.
“As coach would say, we have to stay germ free,” captain and veteran wide receiver Matthew Slater said. “It is the season.”
Another team captain, linebacker Elandon Roberts, said: “And if you do feel a certain way, say something so you don’t try to hold it in, try to fight through it, and get everyone else sick around you.”
It wasn’t all bad news for the Patriots at practice, though. Receiver Phillip Dorsett II, who missed Sunday’s game, reported that he is out of the concussion protocol, saying “I’m just happy to be back.”
–Field Level Media