TE Hoomanawanui unlikely to play

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- No. 2 Patriots tight end Michael Hoomanawanui missed his third straight practice on Friday, making it a near certainty that he will be downgraded to out for Sunday night's game against the visiting Broncos.

Hoomanawanui injured his left knee in the second quarter of Monday's 24-20 loss to the Panthers. The severity of the injury is not known, but it wouldn't be a surprise if it's a longer-term situation.

Hoomanawanui has been a valuable performer for the Patriots this season, first filling in for Rob Gronkowski over the first six games of the season and more recently morphing into more of a complementary role. He has played 66 percent of the offensive snaps and has totaled 10 catches for 114 yards, while providing competitive blocking in the run game.

In his absence, five-year veteran Matthew Mulligan would bump up the depth chart, while fullback James Develin could also see more reps.

Bill Belichick had players practicing in the rain today, which is the norm, as Belichick prefers the team practicing in elements that they might possibly face on any game day.