Clock ticking for injured players

The Patriots make their first road trip of the season on Tuesday evening, when they travel to Tampa in advance of their third preseason game on Friday night.

It will be a warm and humid two days of practices for the team, but the heat will also be on back in New England for injured players who do not make the trip.

On Tuesday, defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene was released, just five months after signing a three-year deal with a $3.85 million signing bonus. He had missed the final 13 practices of training camp.

Fanene was injured, but he wasn't alone. Linebacker Tracy White, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, fullback Spencer Larsen, and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe are among those who have missed the last several weeks with injuries.

During training camp, teams might be more lenient with injured players. But training camp is over, and the clock is now ticking.

Perhaps one or more of those players will re-join the practice fields in Tampa this week, along with tight end Daniel Fells and tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who were removed from the active/PUP list on Saturday.

If they don't return, time could be up. On Monday the Patriots will have to trim their roster to 75 players. With 85 players currently on the roster, that means 10 cuts will have to be made by 4 p.m. that day.

Traditionally, the first cut-down is the end of the road for injured players, with the second cut-down coming too quickly to make much of a difference in a player's health situation.

For White, Larsen, Shiancoe, and Dennard, that gives them six days to get back on the field. If not, they have likely lost the battle of attrition brought by the preseason, and could be released or placed on injured reserve, ending their season.