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SERIES: 21st meeting. Browns lead series, 12-8. The Patriots have had the upper hand in this series of late, taking five of the last six meetings. The Browns won nine of the first 11 contests played between the two teams, including a couple of dominating shutouts in the '80s and '90s. The last meeting in 2004 saw the Patriots roll on the road 42-15. Bethel Johnson returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and the Patriots never looked back.
PREDICTION: Patriots 30-10
KEYS TO THE GAME: QB Derek Anderson is earning the trust of the coaching staff with each game, but the Browns know they must control this contest on the ground to stand a chance. The offensive line has improved its play as the season has progressed, and the goal is to win time of possession behind the power running of RB Jamal Lewis. Anderson must avoid the one or two bad throws he is prone to each game -- the Browns have no margin for error. ... With OLB Kamerion Wimbley being double-teamed on obvious passing downs, the Browns need other pass rushers to step up. Containing the run and putting heat on QB Tom Brady is the Browns' only hope of slowing the Patriots' offense. Cleveland simply doesn't have the talent or depth at corner to hold up for long in coverage against WR Randy Moss and friends.
Browns coach Romeo Crennel was the Patriots' defensive coordinator from
2001-04. ... The Patriots have scored in all 16 quarters they have played this
season, and their past 35 overall.
KEY INJURIES: Browns: TE Kellen Winslow (shoulder) is limited but will play; P Dave Zastudil (oblique) appears set to return, which could lead to the release of Scott Player. Patriots: RB Laurence Maroney (groin) stands a good chance to be replaced by Sammy Morris for a second consecutive game; OG Stephen Neal (shoulder) has missed the past two games and is still limited.
BROWNS PERSONNEL NEWS:
--P Dave Zastudil is no longer restricted with his oblique injury, but coach Romeo Crennel said he might carry Scott Player on the roster for another week to make sure Zastudil is all right.
--OL Ryan Tucker had two strong days of practice upon returning from his month-long suspension for steroid use. The Browns activated Tucker on Saturday and waived backup RT Kelly Butler.
--CB Leigh Bodden is looking forward to his matchup with Randy Moss. Bodden guarded him last season when Moss played for the Raiders. Moss caught one pass and scored a touchdown on the play.
--DE Orpheus Roye is still slowed by a left knee injury, but he said is well enough to play Sunday.
--LB Willie McGinest says the game against New England will be emotional for him because he played 12 years with the Patriots, but he said he will hold his emotions in check because he does not want to change the way he plays.
PATRIOTS PERSONNEL NEWS:
--C Dan Koppen (ankle) had limited participation Thursday's practice. Koppen hurt his ankle Monday night against the Bengals.
--OLB Rosevelt Colvin (ankle) had limited participation in practice on Thursday. Colvin was limited against the Bengals because of his ankle injury.
--RB Laurence Maroney (groin) had limited participation in Thursday's practice. Maroney didn't play against the Bengals and his status for this week's game isn't known.
--G Stephen Neal (shoulder) had limited participation in Thursday's practice. Neal has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury. Billy Yates has filled in nicely for Neal at right guard.
--WR Donte' Stallworth (knee) had limited participation in practice on Thursday. Stallworth was on the injury report last week as well but still started against Cincinnati.
INSIDE THE PATRIOTS CAMP:
In Rodney Harrison's first public appearance since his four-game steroid suspension was announced, he had a clear message for everyone. Harrison was moving forward and he's learned from his past mistakes.
"There is really no reason for me to continue to elaborate on the past," Harrison said. "I think the last month you guys have said enough. I said what I felt. I'm a better man because of it. I'm a better person. Hopefully, I'll be a better football player. I just look forward to getting my life and getting everything back on track and just moving forward.
During his time away from football Harrison played with his kids, spent time with his wife, played a lot of golf and watched his team crush its first four opponents. He also stayed in shape by working out twice a day. Harrison did everything from weight training to yoga, trying to stay sharp both physically and mentally.
But regardless of what he did to pass the time, it killed Harrison to be away from the game he loves. Harrison appreciates the way his teammates stood by him and showed their support while he was suspended.
"I appreciate the respect and respect is something that is earned. It's not given to you," Harrison said about his teammate still believing in him. "They know how hard I work day in and day out. They know what type of person I am, what type of character I have. I love these guys. I have a great deal of respect for these guys. They know who I am because they spend 12-14 hours a day with me. That's what I take from it. I appreciate these guys supporting me and if the shoe was on the other foot, you best believe I would be supporting them."
Even with New England's defense experiencing a lot of success without Harrison, everyone in the Patriots locker room knows what he means to the team. Numbers on a stat sheet can't measure the experience and leadership Harrison displays on the field. Even someone as successful as Tom Brady looks up to Harrison because he personifies what this Patriots team stands for.
"He's one of the most respected players in here and one of the most respected players that's ever been in this organization," Brady said of Harrison. "I think he's everything that you look for in a football player. He's great and I look up to him. I admire everything that he's done. He's great. The experience that he has, the way that he performs and what he expects from himself is second to none. We're all lucky to have him. He's everything this team is all about."
Now it's back to work for the hard-hitting safety. Harrison's replacement, James Sanders, has been excellent in his place. The Patriots currently have the luxury of having three starting caliber safeties with Harrison, Sanders and Eugene Wilson. Asante Samuel wasn't in the starting lineup for the team's first two games after missing all of training camp and while Harrison may not start right away, his presence alone will be a tremendous lift to the Patriots defense.
"I've always had perspective," Harrison said. "I've been hurt. I've been to the mountaintop. I've been hurt, injured, torn knees. I've always had perspective. I've never taken the game for granted. It's just one of those things that happened. Whether through injury or through the suspension, you always understand that whether you are playing the game or not, you are going to miss the game. You have a love, a passion for the game, but eventually one day that is going to end and you have to move forward. I still have an opportunity and I am going to try to take advantage of it."