Insiders: News and Notes

The Patriots Inside linebacker position appears set with Mike Vrabel, Monty Beisel and Chad Brown ready to step in. On the outside, things are more in a state of flux, with Rosevelt Colvin, Willie McGinest, Tully Banta-Cain and Matt Chatham in the mix. Coach Belichick isn't letting on who he expects to fit into which slots, but it's agood bet versatility will be key.

News And Notes

--Linebacker Matt Chatham is making the move from outside to inside linebacker, where the losses of Ted Johnson and Tedy Bruschi left the Pats thin. Since Chatham is such a key special teams contributor, he's a logical choice to train at the new position since he is almost certain to be active on game days.

But while Chatham makes his living on special teams, the 250-pounder showed some pass rushing ability last week during a blitz pickup drill for running backs. One-by-one the running backs lined up and took on a rushing inside linebacker while trying to keep them from reaching a cone in the backfield.

On his first rush, Chatham used a nasty spin move to blow right past the blocker on the way to the pretend quarterback. On his second rush, he juked the blocker and made him lean in one direction before he bolted the other way for a would-be sack. But it was his third rush that drew some oohs and aahs from the crowd. After using two different moves, Chatham went to a third and bull rushed over the top of star running back Corey Dillon on his way to the cone.

"I checked quick to see if Mr. Kraft or Scott Pioli were around to make sure I still had a job," Chatham quipped. "But it's just practice," he added, downplaying his success.

--QB Tom Brady celebrated his 28th birthday on Aug. 3, and pockets of fans at the Patriots afternoon practice that day serenaded Brady with the traditional Happy Birthday song, including a group of kids from the Cape Cod Boys and Girls Club. But none of the fans has anything on the team's rookie class, which was called to the middle of a team huddle to sing Happy Birthday to Brady.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

With the preseason schedule getting underway this week, the Patriots will get their truest measurement of where their inside linebacker position is in terms of lining up to stop the run. If the Patriots struggle in Cincinnati, expect Scott Pioli to work the phones seeking any available trades.

In 2003 when the Patriots struggled against the run early in the preseason after having a difficult time stopping it all through the 2002 season, the Patriots dealt for Ted Washington, who answered the call and helped New England win a Super Bowl. The Patriots have some extra 2006 draft picks with which to play and could dangle one or more for a proven inside linebacker who could fill the "mike" role inside a 3-4, two-gap style defensive front.

This is probably the biggest concern facing the Patriots defense this summer and the area to watch to see how Belichick addresses it. Currently, he's using Chad Brown, Mike Vrabel, Matt Chatham and Monty Beisel inside, but none of the four has much experience playing inside in the 3-4.

--NT Ethan Kelley started camp on the non-football injury list and it was reported that he failed the team's conditioning test. But he might have failed it a second time to earn his release because it didn't make much sense that after investing two years of developmental time in Kelley that the Pats would cut him without even seeing him on the practice field this year. Kelley was a 2003 seventh round pick who spent his first season on the practice squad and his second on the 53-man roster. He quickly signed with Cleveland after hitting the street. Kelley came into camp with a legitimate chance to back up Vince Wilfork at nose tackle.

--WR Jake Schifino was released with an injury settlement, but the Patriots did not disclose the injury. Schifino was not expected to make the club anyway.

--DL Mario Monds, a 342-pound behemoth, signed with the club, presumably to replace Kelley and compete at nose tackle. Monds has played in seven career games, including five with Miami in 2004.

--DL Tom Sverchek signed with the club after being waived by the Bills on July 28. The 300-pound lineman will compete at defensive end in the 3-4, but with an outside shot of making the team.

--WR Rich Musinski was signed to replace Schifino on the roster. He is likely just a body to run routes in camp, but will have to a chance to play in the preseason and get some game tape to take with him in future job hunts.

The club released WR Ricky Bryant after he missed the first week of camp with an undisclosed injury.

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