The New England Patriots earned themselves a first-round bye by locking up the No. 2 seed in the AFC, but it hasn't prevented injuries from occurring. According to Jim McBride of the Boston Globe and several reports, safety and special teamer Nate Ebner was spotted at practice Thursday with a cast on his right arm.

#Patriots safety/core special teamer Nate Ebner had a cast on his right arm at walkthrough.

— Jim McBride (@globejimmcbride) January 7, 2016

The Patriots aren't going with their typical practice schedule this week and have instead elected for walkthroughs. It's unclear how the injury to Ebner occurred, but he's a core player on special teams.

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Not only is he the personal punt protecter, but he's also a coverage guy. He's third on the team with 11 special teams tackles, and has eight more tackles than the No. 4 player on the list.

Patriots special teams leading tacklers in 2015: Matthew Slater (17), Brandon King (12), Nate Ebner (11). Next player on the list has 3.

— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) January 7, 2016

He doesn't play a huge role on defense, but having him on special teams -- where the Patriots have struggled in recent weeks -- is important.