FOXBORO — Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton is eligible to come off injured reserve this week, after missing the first four games of the season on IR with the broken collarbone he suffered in mid-August.
On Wednesday, Thornton appeared at his first practice since the injury and wore a red, non-contact jersey.
Whether the second-round rookie is activated in time for Sunday’s game against Detroit will depend on his recovery and practice performance. The Pats held a walkthrough on Wednesday inside their practice bubble, as steady rains fell outside Gillette Stadium. Sunday’s forecast currently calls for sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60s.
In the preseason, Thornton caught three passes for 22 yards and a touchdown. He broke his collarbone upon getting tackled in the first half of the Pats’ 20-10 home win over Carolina. Until then, Thornton had slowly been rising up the depth chart and occasionally taking snaps ahead of veteran Kendrick Bourne in training camp.
Through four games, the Patriots’ receiver depth chart appears to have DeVante Parker and Nelson Agholor entrenched at the top, with Bourne and Lil’Jordan Humphrey dividing snaps as the team’s No. 3 wideout. Humphrey has been playing a unique role for the Pats as a hybrid wide receiver/tight end, which may continue with tight end Jonnu Smith sidelined by a new ankle sprain.
Smith did not appear at practice Wednesday.
If/when Thornton does return, he would inject rare deep speed into the Pats offense. He clocked a 4.28 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, fastest among all timed receivers.
The Patriots also have an open spot on their 53-man roster, for which practice-squad offensive tackle Marcus Cannon is a strong candidate after playing 25 snaps at Green Bay.