BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots took a large step toward having a healthy stable of running backs for the start of the season on Monday, as Rex Burkhead returned to the practice field.

Burkhead had been missing at practice ever since his eye-catching performance in Week 2 of the preseason in Houston. Burkhead caught three passes for 50 yards and a touchdown in that game, while also rushing for 20 yards on seven attempts, before missing practice time due to an unannounced injury.

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With Mike Gillislee making his preseason debut (in impressive fashion) in Week 3 of the preseason, the Patriots are in good position to boast a strong backfield, which also includes James White and Dion Lewis. The running backs figured to be an important part of the offense anyway, but the unit will have more significance in the wake of Julian Edelman’s season-ending injury.

Special teams captain Matthew Slater also returned to the practice field on Monday. He had been absent for several weeks after suffering an undisclosed leg injury.

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The absences at Monday’s practice included receiver Malcolm Mitchell, left tackle Nate Solder, and linebacker Shea McClellin.

Nate Solder, initially considered absent, was merely not present when the media was allowed to view practice.

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The Patriots finish their preseason on Thursday at home against the New York Giants, with the NFL requiring the roster be trimmed to 53 players on Saturday. The regular season begins for the Patriots on Thursday, Sept. 7.