LB Darius Fleming's promotion likely tied to Jamie Collins' absence


DENVER -- The New England Patriots promoted second-year linebacker Darius Fleming from their practice squad Saturday, a move that likely foreshadows that the team expects to be without starting linebacker Jamie Collins for Sunday night's game against the Denver Broncos.

Collins, who has missed the last three games with an undisclosed illness, was officially doubtful on the team's injury report.

The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Fleming played in five regular-season games for the Patriots last season, as well as all three playoff games. His primary contributions came on special teams, and that is likely to be the case Sunday night as well.

After Collins, the Patriots have Dont'a Hightower, Jonathan Freeny, Jerod Mayo and Jon Bostic at linebacker, so Fleming adds another layer. In essence, this is a one-for-one swap with linebacker Eric Martin, who was waived Friday and expected to return to the practice squad after he went unclaimed Saturday.

The team also formally promoted tight end Asante Cleveland from the practice squad, a move that was reported Friday, and released safety Dewey McDonald off the 53-man roster.