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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has missed his second consecutive practice for the first time this season. He is dealing with an achilles injury.

There’s no reason to sound the alarm bell — yet. With the Patriots playing on Monday night, they have an extra day of practice. Brady’s absence on Thursday is much like him missing on Wednesday, something he’s done for the last three weeks.

Malcolm Butler, who missed Wednesday’s practice, returned on Thursday. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy, tackle Marcus Cannon and defensive end Deatrich Wise were absent.

The team will release their first offical injury report of the week this afternoon.

West Alabama has a lucky charm in its corner as cheap jerseys the Tigers attempt to continue their run toward a NCAA Division II national title.

Former UWA player and New England Patriots All-Pro cornerback Malcolm Butler gifted the Tigers with special black uniform pants for the season.

As part of his deal with Adidas, Butler has a clause that says he wants a certain amount of money donated to UWA football; last year’s donation paid for the black pants.

The Tigers are 9-0 this season when wearing the black pants donated by Butler–and they’ll wear them again today for their quarterfinals matchup against West Florida.

Butler is in his fourth year in the NFL, after making a Super Bowl-saving play to cap his 2014 rookie season with the Patriots. He went on to earn a Pro Bowl invitation in 2015 and was a second-team All-Pro pick in 2016 when the Patriots won the Super Bowl again.

Malcom Brown had a difficult time staying positive.

The Patriots third-year defensive tackle never missed a game because of injury in his life — not high school, college or the NFL — so a three-week absence due to a badly sprained ankle was torture.

But it wasn’t strictly about the missed opportunities. Really, Brown has quietly become an integral figure on the Patriots defense, someone who has stepped up considerably to take on some of linebacker Dont’a Hightower’s leadership responsibilities.

“I’m used to going out there and dealing with whatever,” Brown said. “It was unfortunate I couldn’t go out there and help the team, and that really hurt in so many different ways that I wasn’t there to help my team. I come here and try to do my job to help and support my teammates, and I was disappointed because I wasn’t out there with them on the field.”

To outsiders, Brown plays a thankless position. To his teammates, though, he has been held in high regard because they watch him organize midweek meetings, keep the front seven in check during practice, hype up the defense before it takes the field for each series and get the line in position before each snap.

Safety Devin McCourty, a captain for the seventh time, noted it’s an integral leap in Brown’s development that he has been able to vocalize his message at such a meaningful level.

“He’s been huge,” McCourty said. “It’s obvious to see how well he is playing. The thing that has been great about him is coming into his own as a leader, speaking up when needed, performance-wise always being on, practice, games, being a guy that I think everyone on defense can feed off of. He has taken the front as his responsibility to make sure they’re right in the right game and with communication.

“I think that’s been huge for us in a year when (Hightower) gets hurt. He was already coming into his own, and it has just picked up and gotten better throughout the season. He has been a real key part. Even the games he missed was just a little different, obviously his play but just having him in there to really be in charge of that front with him and Trey (Flowers).”
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Brown has been a solid performer for three seasons, but the statistical production can come and go due to the nature of his job title. Everyone wants to hit the quarterback, but Bill Belichick often demands his space eaters contain their gaps to help others get into the backfield.

So it was especially sweet Sunday against the Bills when Brown had a half-sack, quarterback hit, pressure and run stuff. It was the third time this season Brown had four disruptions in the backfield, compared to one game from his first two seasons.

If nothing else, the performance in Buffalo validated his drive to get back to the field. Sure, he returned two weeks ago against the Dolphins, but he felt like himself against the Bills. When he was down and out for three games, only one thing really kept him upbeat.

“Just the drive to get back,” Brown said. “I was in there grinding and continued working to get it better. I was really motivated to get back to my teammates.”

But Brown didn’t want the praise, which is befitting of his position.

“I continue to try to come in and take a game like last Sunday and review it, and I continue to work on things that I did wrong in that game,” Brown said. “I don’t overemphasize the things I did good. I overemphasize the things I did bad. I take what I did good humbly and try to continue to work on the things I did bad.”

It can be easy to overlook Brown because he plays alongside Pro Bowlers like McCourty, Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore and a breakout pass rusher like Flowers. Add Hightower to that group when he was healthy, too.

But Brown has corralled a spotlight within his own locker room. They listen when he speaks, whether it’s in the middle of the week or on game day. He isn’t a captain yet, but that honor appears to be in his future. Remember, when Hightower tore his pectoral muscle, a concern was the Patriots wouldn’t be as in sync in the front seven, but Brown has commanded that responsibility and the trust has had a way of snowballing.

It wouldn’t be as significant if he weren’t producing, whether he is getting credit on the stat sheet or in the full-team film sessions for the so-called thankless contributions.

“He knows he is a big part of what we need to do when it comes to stopping the run, and he has taken that challenge. It’s good to see that,” safety Duron Harmon said. “I’m excited for him because his best football is definitely ahead of him.”