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Veteran Patriots CB Tarell Brown's injury status in the spotlight

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Veteran cornerback Tarell Brown started for the New England Patriots in the season opener, which reflects how the coaching staff views him as a critical cog in their plans. But Brown, who underwent offseason foot surgery, has been managed carefully since that time and that's why his absence from Thursday's practice is especially notable.

Brown's absence comes one day after the Patriots claimed Rashaan Melvin on waivers from the Ravens, which hints at some concerns the team might have with Brown.

Brown played 45 of 72 defensive snaps in Sunday's win over the Cowboys. His role was as part of a sub package in which he most often lined up across from interior receiver Cole Beasley.

On Wednesday, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Brown was a limited participant in practice.

On Thursday, he was the lone Patriots player absent from practice, as linebacker Dont'a Hightower was present for the second day in a row after injuring his ribs in Sunday's game.