Francis had not been on the injury report in recent weeks. He practiced during the bye week before a four-day break for players, so the reason for his absence on Tuesday is not known. The undrafted rookie from Rutgers has played in 10 games this season, tallying three sacks.
Meanwhile, defensive end Rob Ninkovich (hip) was on the practice field for the start of a third straight session, including last Thursday's workout, so his chances of playing on Sunday continue to increase.
Owner Robert Kraft took in the start of the practice, which was held in helmets and light shoulder pads.
The Patriots will release their first injury report of the week on Wednesday afternoon.