The New England Patriots’ once-muddled linebacking situation is starting to clear.
Linebacker Derrick Burgess was reinstated Friday to the active roster from the reserve-did not report list after being missing since the start of training camp. After passing a physical and conditioning test, he practiced for the first time with the team Sunday.
Burgess a veteran of nine NFL seasons, who signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract in May, attributed his absence to personal reasons. There had been speculation he might retire, but Burgess didn’t mention that.
"I had to take care of my family business before I could report," he said.
Burgess said he had kept Patriots officials updated about what he was doing and that his absence had nothing to do with any issue with the team itself.
"I’m happy to be here," Burgess said after reiterating the reason for his absence was family related.
Burgess said he was "a little rusty" in his first practice back, but that he felt good.
He said he wasn’t sure how long it would take him to get back and see game action. "I’ll work hard at it and take it day by day."
Burgess is being counted on heavily to provide a pass rush from the outside along with fellow outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, but said his overall influence on the Patriots’ fortunes is limited.
"It’s a team sport," he said. "All I can do is help the team."
Burgess said his absence had nothing to do with the grind of the two-a-day practices of an NFL training camp.
"It wasn’t like I was just missing camp," he said. "I had too much on my mind and things to take care of. It was a relief when I was done with it and was able to come to camp."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Friday the circumstances behind Burgess’ decision to report were "personal conversations" between him and the player and that things changed when he reported Friday morning and passed his physical and conditioning test.
Belichick, when asked if he was convinced Burgess is committed to playing football for the entire season, said "Well, I’m glad he’s here."