FOXBORO (CBS) — After a breakout game for the Patriots in Week 17, other NFL teams may have wanted to pry wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson from New England’s practice squad. But Bill Belichick put the kibosh on that on Tuesday.

The Patriots reportedly used practice-squad protections on Wilkerson and three other players on Tuesday. Along with Wilkerson, the Patriots protected safety Sean Davis, tight end Matt LaCosse, and defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale.

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This is believed to be the first time that the Patriots have utilized the protection, according to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss. Teams can use the protection on up to four players every week, but New England had not used it until this point.

The protection means that other teams cannot sign the four players to their 53-man roster this week. The likelihood of that happening usually increases at this point in the season, when teams begin to plan for next year’s roster. There’s also the matter of teams trying to fill out roster spots as players test positive for COVID-19 during the week.

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Wilkerson has been with the Patriots for the last two years, joining the practice squad in 2020 after he was cut by the Titans ahead of the season. He was elevated to the active roster for one game in 2020 before reverting back to the practice squad. He signed a reserve/future contract last January, and was back on the practice squad in 2021.

He was elevated to the active roster for Week 17 against the Jacksonville Jaguars and caught his first career touchdown, finishing the afternoon with four receptions for 42 yards and two touchdowns. He’s now back on the New England practice squad, though he may get another elevation for Week 18 against the Miami Dolphins.

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Tune in to Sunday’s Patriots-Dolphins game on WBZ-TV — the flagship station of the New England Patriots. Pregame coverage begins at 11:30am with Patriots GameDay, kickoff is set for 4:25pm, and after the game tune in to TV38 for full reaction and analysis on Patriots 5th Quarter! Staff