Signs pointing to Patriots being without RB Rex Burkhead

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- While there is always the chance of a late-week change, the current signs point to the New England Patriots being without injured running back Rex Burkhead for Sunday's home game against the Houston Texans.

Burkhead, who suffered an injury to his ribs in Sunday's win over the New Orleans Saints, did not practice Wednesday and also wasn't on the field for the start of Thursday's workout. If he is indeed unavailable, it would leave the Patriots with four running backs on the 46-man game-day roster: Mike Gillislee, James White, Dion Lewis and Brandon Bolden.

Burkhead, who appeared to be primed for an expanded workload against the Saints, didn't play on offense after the team's fourth series. He did return to the game on special teams, as a member of the punt-return unit, which could have been viewed as an indication that the injury wasn't initially diagnosed as anything overly serious.

As for how Burkhead's potential absence might affect the team's running back usage, it shouldn't have much of an impact on Gillislee and White. Their roles seem firmly established at this point, with Gillislee the top power option in short-yardage situations (four touchdown runs) and White the reliable top option as the "passing back."

If anything, it might create a bit more of a workload for Lewis, who had some success as a pass-catcher against the Texans in the divisional round of the playoffs last season.