Ninkovich, Hightower, Brady return

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich (hip) was back on the field for the second and final practice of the team's playoff bye week on Thursday.

Ninkovich's presence at the start of the session is a positive sign for his availability when the Patriots host a divisional playoff game a week from Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Meanwhile, quarterback Tom Brady and linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who along with Ninkovich were both not spotted at the start of Wednesday's practice for undisclosed reasons, were also back on the practice field on Thursday, giving the Patriots full attendance.

Players practiced outside in light shoulder pads and in frigid temperatures for a second straight day.