FOXBOROUGH, MASS. (AP) -- The New England Patriots lost their second defensive end in nine days on Monday when Jermaine Cunningham was suspended for four games without pay for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances.
The league's announcement of Cunningham's suspension did not specify
the substance, though reports identified the substance as Adderall. The
Patriots had no official reaction.
Now it's Trevor Scott's turn to get ready for more action.
''I don't really know what's going to happen as far as depth chart,''
the former Oakland Raider, who has been used sparingly, said, ''but
I'll definitely be preparing to have a more active role this week.''
First-round pick Chandler Jones was having a solid rookie season with
six sacks before hurting his right ankle in the first quarter of a
59-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 18. He missed the rest of
that game and all of last Thursday's 49-19 rout of the New York Jets
when Cunningham had a season-high six tackles in his first start of the
Now Cunningham's gone and Jones may not be ready to face the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
Scott has played only 110 snaps, 59 in the first nine games and 51 in
the past two. He figures to play a lot more in Miami than his average
this season of 10 per game.
But a defense that has just 23 sacks in 11 games seems to be taking in
stride the loss of Cunningham, who has played well with three sacks
after struggling last year, his second following the 2010 draft when
the Patriots took him in the second round.
''Every year there's always going to be some issue that you have to
deal with. That's just the way football goes,'' said defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who leads the Patriots with seven sacks. ''So that's another
thing that we'll just deal with.''
With a win at Miami, the Patriots (8-3) would clinch the AFC East title
for the fourth straight season and ninth in the last 10. If they win,
none of the other division teams could get more than nine victories and
they would lock up the best record among the four teams in division
''That's huge,'' special teams captain Matthew Slater said. ''We're
really thankful as a team to be where we are right now, to have a
chance to be in position to play for something else. But we realize
that eight wins doesn't get us anything. That'll get us a ticket home
at the end of the season.''
That's not very likely to happen, with or without Cunningham and Jones
— not with the Patriots having the NFL's best offense, a five-game
winning streak and two games against Miami and one against
Jacksonville, both with losing records, remaining.
''The next guy's got to just step up and be ready to play,'' safety
Steve Gregory said. ''The game of football is a physical game. Guys go
down. Guys get hurt. Everyone on your roster has to be ready to step up
and play at any given moment, so all of our guys treat it that way.''
The Patriots signed Scott as a free agent following four seasons with
Oakland, where he was drafted in the sixth round. He had a total of 12
sacks in 32 games over his first two seasons, but just 1 1/2 in 26
games during the past two. Of his 58 games with the Raiders, he started
He's not worrying about his limited playing time so far this year.
''It's not going to help if I get down about myself,'' Scott said. ''I
don't really have any control over that. But I just have control over
what happens when I do get in the game.''
Cunningham can return to the active roster on Dec. 24, one day after
the Patriots play at Jacksonville, and be eligible for the
regular-season finale against the Dolphins in Foxborough.
Patriots rookie running back Brandon Bolden's four-game suspension for
violating the same NFL policy ends after Sunday' game in Miami.
Cornerback Aqib Talib has played two games since being traded by the
Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He had to sit out his first game with the
Patriots to complete his four-game suspension for violating the policy
on performance-enhancing substances.
Now with Cunningham out, if Scott can pressure the quarterback it would
help the entire defense.
A good pass rush ''always helps'' the secondary, safety Devin McCourty
said. ''I think we work together pretty good at times and I think it's
been improving each week.''
How will that be affected by Cunningham's absence for four of the
remaining five games?
''We'll see,'' McCourty said. ''I don't know.''
This report courtesy of the associated press.
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