LONDON – The Patriots are limping into their bye week, and on Friday announced seven players as officially out for Sunday, a list headlined by Aaron Hernandez.
The versatile tight end has been struggling to fully recover from an ankle injury. It is not responding to treatment and he is having difficulty cutting on that leg.
One of the seven players, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, was placed on injured reserve, the team announced. Dowling has a thigh injury. He has played in eight games in two seasons.
Hernandez suffered a sprained right ankle on the Patriots’ third offensive snap of their Week 2 game against Arizona. Though Hernandez said recently he initially feared it was broken, x-rays were negative and he was diagnosed with a sprain.
While the healing time for a sprain is often 4-6 weeks, Hernandez missed only three full games, returning to play in Seattle on Oct. 14. He had a limited role in that game, playing 38 of 87 snaps, but did catch the Patriots’ first touchdown of the game.
Last week, against the Jets, his workload was increased, and he was on the field for 57 of 80 snaps. Hernandez had five catches for 54 yards.
Playing so much against New York may have led to a setback, because he played more than was expected.
His practice participation has been spotty, and Hernandez was held out of Thursday’s session in Foxborough for treatment, and will continue to get treatment. New England has its bye week when it returns from London, so clearly the hope is that he will be able to see a good deal of improvement during the downtime as he continues to receive treatment.
This is not the first time Hernandez and/or the team may have rushed him back from injury: last year he suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee and sat out two games, but clearly was not himself when he returned and didn’t look right until the end of the regular season.
Hernandez is not the only player who did not make the long flight to London: Patrick Chung, who re-injured his shoulder in Seattle and did not play against the Jets, also has been declared out.
Additionally, safety Steve Gregory (hip) will miss his fourth straight game; Brandon Bolden (knee), Dowling (thigh), Trevor Scott (hamstring), and Tracy White (foot) are all unavailable.
With seven players already out, New England will not have to declare any other players inactive on Sunday, but 11 more players are listed as questionable.
The absence of both Chung and Gregory for the second straight game means that Devin McCourty will again play at safety, but moving McCourty plus the injury to Dowling means the Patriots enter the game with St. Louis with Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard, Sterling Moore and Marquice Cole at cornerback.
Logan Mankins, who missed last week’s against the Jets due to calf and hip injuries, is among the 11 questionable, as is Jerod Mayo (elbow/illness) and Wes Welker (ankle).
Greg A. Bedard of the Globe staff contributed to this report.