Quick hits from Patriots' locker room

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Notes from the New England Patriots' locker room on Tuesday:

Ninkovich's underrated athleticism: Defensive end Rob Ninkovich has had a long journey to become the player we see on the field today. He was drafted as a tight end and has played long snapper, linebacker and defensive end. For a player who has showed this much versatility, Ninkovich was asked about being underrated as an athlete.

"High-motor guy, come on, right place, right time," Ninkovich joked about being lucky instead of athletic. "I'm going to go buy some lottery tickets, maybe I'm just lucky."

Then, Ninkovich talked about his athletic abilities.

"I think again it's just learning the game and playing for so long now, just having an understanding of being around the football and being in the right places just from experience and doing it for so long. I'm not going to sell myself short and say I'm not athletic. I'm pretty athletic. My 40-time might not be a 4.5, but I can move pretty well."

Ironman Ninkovich: Ninkovich has one of the longest active streaks for consecutive games played in the NFL with 88 including the postseason. The last game Ninkovich missed was on Nov. 22 of 2009 against the Jets. Asked about staying on the field, Ninkovich knocked on the wood of his locker to avoid a jinx. "I'm happy to stay out there and help the team as much as I can," Ninkovich said. "You can't think about things like that, some of those things are out of your control. I just go out there and play as hard as I can and hope I keep doing it."

LaFell's locker untouched: Wide receiver Brandon LaFell missed practice Tuesday for an unknown reason. LaFell's locker looked untouched, a sign that he was likely not at Gillette Stadium.

Easley sighting: Rookie defensive lineman Dominique Easley also missed practice but was seen walking through the locker room. There was a pair of crutches resting in his locker, though he strolled through the locker room with no sign of a limp. It is possible that the crutches were placed there as a joke. Last Wednesday in the final practice before the bye week, Easley pulled up during the stretching portion of practice, was tended to by trainers and did not participate in the remaining open media access portion of practice.

Vereen on Gray's progress: Running back Jonas Gray has emerged as the Patriots' big back after Stevan Ridley's season-ending injury. Gray jumped into the role right away, and teammate Shane Vereen said Gray is now fully acclimated. "Early when [Gray] first got here ... it's not the easiest offense to learn," Vereen said. "But, he's in stride now, doing his thing and he's picked it up really well."

Siliga update: Defensive lineman Sealver Siliga, who was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return Sept. 27, has been seen more often in the locker room during the past two weeks. Per NFL rules, Siliga can start practicing six weeks from the date of being placed on the list, meaning he can return to practice any day, if healthy. Siliga is also eligible to play in a game after eight weeks. The first game that Siliga can return to action in is at home against Detroit.