Tom Brady again limited at practice

Updated: December 31, 2011, 2:05 AM ET
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- On the verge of becoming just the third quarterback to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season, Tom Brady was limited in practice Thursday and Friday, but coach Bill Belichick wouldn't say how limited.

Brady injured his left, non-throwing shoulder Sunday and reportedly underwent X-rays that came back negative.

Asked before Friday's session what Brady was able to do in Thursday's practice, Belichick said simply, "Play quarterback."

Brady was present for the start of the team's practice Friday, but again had limited participation. On the team's injury report, he was listed as probable with a left shoulder injury for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills. A designation of probable means a player is virtually certain to be available for the game. The team could think about resting Brady in the finale, but with a victory, the Patriots would clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.

In the event Brady cannot play, the Patriots would turn to backup Brian Hoyer, a third-year player from Michigan State. Some of Hoyer's most extended NFL playing time came in the 2010 regular-season finale against the Miami Dolphins, with the Patriots having already locked up a No. 1 playoff seed.

"I think that game is a little bit different than this game, relative to what the implications of the game were," Belichick said. "A preseason game, or a game that has literally no bearing on the standings, that's one thing. But I wouldn't say we're really in that situation this time."

Receiver Wes Welker said Friday he expected both he and Brady would play the entire game Sunday.

"Absolutely. This is for the No. 1 seed, fellas, so we're going so we're going out there and giving everything we got for four quarters," Welker said.

Belichick predictably wasn't tipping his hand on Brady's injury, which ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported kept Brady out of practice on Thursday and Friday following stretching, agility drills and warm-ups.

Belichick was also asked if he was confident Brady will be able to play at a high level after showing up on Thursday's participation report with a left shoulder injury.

"Anybody we put out on the field I have confidence in, or we wouldn't put him out there," he responded. "If they're not out there, there is either another player ahead of him or we're not confident they can go out there and do it [for health reasons]. It's as simple as that."

Patriots offensive linemen Logan Mankins (knee) and Sebastian Vollmer (back/foot) are listed as out for Sunday's game, while another 16 players are questionable.

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

EDITORS' PICKS