HOUSTON — It’s a good thing Patriots owner Robert Kraft owns two team airplanes.

After an illness swept through the Patriots locker room, the team organized two separate flights to get to Houston on Saturday, according to a source. The Patriots had one flight for most of their players and team staff, and then had another for individuals who were sick.

The goal was simple – contain the illness that had kept nine players out of practice this week and keep the healthy players healthy. In total, the Patriots listed nine players as questionable for Sunday’s matchup with Houston because of illness. That didn’t include tight end Ryan Izzo, who was declared out.

From the outside looking in, the Patriots had a challenging time preparing for Houston because of all the absences. On Wednesday, eight players – Patrick Chung, Jamie Collins, Izzo, Jermaine Eluemunor, Stephon Gilmore, Dont’a Hightower, JoeJuan Williams and Isaiah Wynn – missed practice because they were sick.

The illness started with Marcus Cannon, who almost didn’t play last weekend against the Dallas Cowboys because he felt so ill. The right tackle was still limited this week. On Wednesday, Devin McCourty said multiple players arrived at Gillette Stadium for practice, only to get sent home because they caught the bug.

“This is probably, for me in my 10 years here, this is probably the most guys I’ve seen just be gone with being sick,” McCourty said. “No injury or anything, we just had guys that came in and you look in their eyes and you could tell they were just out of it. So, hopefully a day at home with meds and rest will help guys out.”

By Thursday, Chung, Collins, Eluemunor and Gilmore returned in a limited fashion. By Friday, Wynn and Williams also returned to practice, but Kyle Van Noy was absent with an illness.

On Saturday, the Patriots also ruled out Jason McCourty (groin) and Byron Cowart (head), and 15 players were listed as questionable, including the nine who were dealing with an illness.

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