Sources: Patriots fear top pick lost for season

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      Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston’s Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.
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    • Covered Patriots since 1997
    • Joined ESPN in 2009

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots fear they have lost rookie defensive end Derek Rivers for the entire season due to a knee injury, league sources told ESPN on Friday.

Rivers, a third-round draft choice from Youngstown State, went down on a kickoff coverage drill Wednesday in a joint practice with the Houston Texans. Head athletic trainer Jim Whalen examined Rivers’ left knee on the field.

With that practice taking place at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, before the Patriots traveled to Houston for a preseason game Saturday, the club had Rivers fly back to Boston for more tests. Those tests reinforced the team’s initial fear of a season-ending knee injury.

Rivers, who was selected 83rd overall, was projected to be part of a rotation at defensive end, which was arguably the Patriots’ thinnest position entering training camp.

Trey Flowers, who led the Patriots with seven sacks last season, tops the depth chart at the position. After Flowers, there is a notable drop, which will likely lead the team to explore a free-agent signing or trade. Another option could be to try to entice Rob Ninkovich out of retirement.

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