By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Patriots fans have not seen Chris Hogan functioning at a high level since late October, and the receiver’s shaky showing on Monday Night Football in Week 14 raised some serious concerns about his health for the postseason.

Yet after Hogan missed seven of the last eight games due to his shoulder injury, there is a very positive sign for his health status as the Patriots prepare for the playoffs.

Hogan — along with five other players — was named a Patriots practice player of the week for his work in practice last week, when the Patriots were preparing for the Jets in the regular-season finale. Hogan was listed as a limited participant for all three practice sessions, but nevertheless was able to impress his teammates and coaches.

The fact that Hogan was able to contribute significantly on the practice field prior to the Patriots’ two-week break between games is an indication that the receiver may be ready and — more importantly — able to contribute in that playoff opener and beyond.

That could be huge. Hogan was a key contributor for last year’s Super Bowl run, catching 17 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns in the Patriots’ three playoff games. That included a career-high 180-yard performance against the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, and a four-catch, 57-yard showing in the Super Bowl.

Hogan was in the middle of a career season this year prior to suffering his injury vs. the Chargers in Week 8. Through eight games, he had 33 receptions for 438 yards and a career-high five touchdowns. He was on pace to shatter personal records and remain in the mix with Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski as a leading receiver on the team.

Hogan tried to play just once after suffering the injury, though he was clearly not himself against the Dolphins in Week 14, when he caught one pass for one yard.

There was more good news on the health front on Wednesday, too, as Rex Burkhead and Alan Branch participated. Receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who’s trying to work his way back onto the active roster after missing the whole season, also participated.

With Tom Brady’s stats taking a dip over the final month of the season, a return of a healthy Hogan — and perhaps a couple of more weapons — could help make the Patriots’ offense live up to its potential in the postseason.

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