FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots guard Logan Mankins (hip) was absent for the start of practice for the third straight day, putting his status for Sunday's game in Buffalo in doubt.
Mankins was limited in practice last Thursday and Friday, and played in Sunday night's loss to Baltimore, but has not been at practice this week. The Patriots would likely have five-year veteran Donald Thomas make his second start of the season (and 15th of his career) if Mankins is unable to play Sunday.
Meanwhile, defensive lineman Justin Francis, who had been out of practice since last Thursday with an ankle injury, returned to the field Friday.
Defensive tackle Brandon Deaderick, who missed Wednesday practice with an ankle injury but returned Thursday, was not spotted on Friday.
Receiver Julian Edelman (hand) and tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle) also were not spotted. Edelman did not practice this week after leaving in the second half of Sunday's game.
Practice squad safety Cyhl Quarles was not on the field, while defensive tackle Marcus Forston was in uniform for the session. Forston cleared waivers Wednesday, and has taken Quarles' spot on the practice squad.
The Patriots also have an open roster spot after the release of tight end Kellen Winslow on Thursday. The team has two practice squad players with two seasons of practice squad experience (tackle Matt Kopa and fullback James Develin), and the CBA states "an otherwise eligible player may be a Practice Squad player for a third season only if the Club by which he is employed that season has at least 53 players on its Active/Inactive List during the entire period of his employment," meaning the Patriots are required to fill Winslow's spot.