Chung, 4 others ruled out
DENVER - The Patriots yesterday downgraded five players to out for today’s game against the Broncos: safety Patrick Chung (foot), linebacker Brandon Spikes (knee), wide receiver Deion Branch (groin), running back Shane Vereen (hamstring), and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer (ankle, back).
It became clear that Chung would miss his sixth straight game Friday night when he attended the Celtics’ scrimmage at TD Garden while the rest of his teammates were en route to Denver.
A week ago, it seemed Chung was on the verge of returning from the right foot injury he suffered Nov. 6. But on Monday, he appeared in the Patriots’ locker room with the foot in a walking boot.
Chung missed the entire week of practice, as did Vollmer.
Spikes practiced last week and was listed as questionable, but he will miss his sixth straight game because of a sprained medial collateral ligament. With the Broncos having the NFL’s top-ranked rushing offense, he would have been a valuable player to have on the field.
Branch was injured in the second half of last Sunday’s game against Washington and did not return. Look for Tiquan Underwood to see more snaps, though this could be the game that Chad Ochocinco has the performance many Patriots fans have been waiting to see.
Also, New England once again promoted defensive back Ross Ventrone off the practice squad. Ventrone takes the roster spot that opened when Malcolm Williams was released Thursday. It is the 17th transaction involving Ventrone since Sept. 3.
Hurt but helpful
After the Patriots released veteran defensive lineman Ty Warren during training camp, he was quickly scooped up by the Broncos and given a two-year contract. But Warren, who missed all of last season after having hip surgery, has not bounced back. Not long after joining the Broncos, he suffered a torn triceps and was placed on injured reserve.
He’s still making an impression in Denver, however.
“He’s a tremendous young man,’’ coach John Fox said. “It’s unfortunate . . . but he’s in our building every day working hard and his weight looks good. He’s working out really hard to rehab and we’re impressed and looking forward to getting him back on the field next season.’’
The Broncos have three other former Patriots on their roster: cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, guard Russ Hochstein, and long snapper Lonie Paxton.
Rematch next year?
The Patriots’ final home opponent in 2012 will come from the AFC West. The team in that division that finishes in the same spot as the Patriots in the AFC East will visit Gillette Stadium next year. So it could be the Broncos, who lead the West by a game over the Raiders . . . Wes Welker has 532 receptions with the Patriots, third most in team history. He should pass Stanley Morgan (534) for second today. Welker has a chance of passing franchise leader Troy Brown (557) before season’s end.