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Saturday, December 22, 2012
Spikes, Dennard, Gronk are out

By Mike Reiss

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Tight end Rob Gronkowski, middle linebacker Brandon Spikes and right cornerback Alfonzo Dennard will not play for the New England Patriots in Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team announced.

All three players were downgraded to out because of injuries. Spikes has been hobbled with knee and ankle injuries, while Dennard hurt his right knee in the second quarter of Sunday's loss to the 49ers. Gronkowski has been out with a broken left forearm since Nov. 18.

With Spikes out, the Patriots have a few different options.

Mike Rivera, a first-year player from Kansas, started in place of Spikes last Sunday. Rivera played just the first series before giving way to Spikes.

Rivera could see extended time Sunday if his health checks out (he also has an ankle injury). Other options include moving Jerod Mayo to middle linebacker and inserting veteran Tracy White into the weakside spot, or moving Dont'a Hightower to the middle, moving Rob Ninkovich from end to strongside linebacker, and playing with Chandler Jones, Trevor Scott and Justin Francis as the top defensive ends.

At right cornerback, Kyle Arrington is the top backup to Dennard. That would be the likely change there, unless the Patriots consider moving Devin McCourty from safety to corner and inserting Patrick Chung into the safety mix.

Gronkowski's absence likely means that Michael Hoomanawanui assumes the No. 2 spot on the tight end depth chart, which he's held the last two games.