News, Notes and Rumor Mill
Patriots Insider Staff
--QB Tom Brady just missed his fourth 300-yard game against the Broncos (299 yards). With 1,821 yards through six weeks, Brady is on pace for more than 4,800 yards passing, a number that would obliterate his previous single season high of 3,764 yards passing in 2002. Brady leads the NFL through six weeks in attempts (228) and yards.
--RB Corey Dillon was in uniform for the Patriots game against the Broncos but did not play. Dillon injured his ankle two weeks ago in Atlanta.
--RB Patrick Pass continues to take full advantage of increased opportunities with both Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk sidelined with injuries. Against Denver, Pass led New England with 10 rushes for 64 yards and one touchdown, while adding six receptions for a team-high 89 yards.
--WR Deion Branch tied for a game-high against the Broncos with seven receptions for 87 yards. The Super Bowl MVP remains on pace to set career highs, leading New England with 37 receptions for 437 yards (11.8 avg.) with one score through six games.
--WR David Givens tied Deion Branch for a game high in the loss in Denver, with seven catches for 58 yards and the Patriots' only receiving score of the afternoon, his first of the season.
--WR Tim Dwight caught just one pass against the Broncos, but it was a 49-yard gain. The big-play veteran has just seven receptions for 128 yards with two scores in his first season in New England, but three of the catches have gone for 30 yards or more.
--PK Adam Vinatieri missed his first career field goal in Denver, a 53-yard attempt on the final play of the second quarter in Sunday's loss to the Broncos. He also hit on kicks from 39 and 38 yards, and is now 7-of-8 in Denver.
--ILB Monty Beisel said in a weekly radio appearance that he missed the entire week of practice leading up to Sunday's game in Denver because he was in the hospital with an infection. Beisel, who was listed as questionable on the team's Thursday and Friday injury reports last week with a finger injury, ended up playing about half the defensive snaps against the Broncos and finished with five tackles and a forced fumble.
--LB Mike Vrabel started at inside linebacker against the Broncos. Generally an outside player, it was Vrabel's first start on the inside in New England's 3-4 front. He finished the loss to Denver with a game-high 13 tackles, including 8 solos.
--S James Sanders, a rookie fourth-round pick out of Fresno State, made his first career start against Denver. The strong safety left the game with a leg injury late in the first half and finished with just two tackles.
--S Arturo Freeman played most of the second half in Denver at strong safety, replacing the injured James Sanders just four days after signing with New England. The sixth-year veteran and former Dolphins starter, finished the game with two tackles.
LB Mike Maslowski who was reportedly headed to Foxboro for a workout this week, now has no scheduled workout with the team. Reports of his arrival first surfaced in Kansas City where Maslowski has been playing for the Chiefs since joining the team in 1999 as a free agent. After a workout for the Chiefs last week, Maslowski was supposed to travel to Foxboro to meet with the Patriots. Those plans are now on hold.
We spoke with a source familiar with the Maslowski situation in Kansas City and were told that Maslowski prefers to play for Dick Vermeil if he can, but he's not ready to play in KC or anywhere else for that matter. According to a team source Maslowski is only 90%. After his workout, everyone's taking a wait and see approach.
The Patriots might be interested in a healthy Maslowski if he were available, but it's now up to the Chiefs and the linebacker to decide if he's going to return to his old team.
According to our Kansas City source, the Chiefs are more interested in going with Shawn Barber who was signed by the team in 2003 to a seven-year deal. Barber was a playmaker from Philadelphia, and has been out of commission since tearing up his knee midway through last season. Like the Patriots' Tedy Bruschi, Barber has been on the PUP list, and is now eligible to return to the team, that is if he's healthy. Barber has been working out with the team, rather than on his own, something that has endeared him to the coaching staff in Kansas City.
Barber is the catalyst for Maslowski's return to the Chiefs. If Barber can return, it's expected the Chiefs will go that direction rather than turn to Maslowski who has missed significant playing time due to his knee injuries.
Ironically, the Chiefs have similar linebacker issues to the Patriots. As defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has tried to work the team into more of a 3-4 defense, injuries have hampered the transition. Losing Keyaron Fox to injury last week puts even more of a limitation on that transition.
The Chiefs have a revamped linebacker unit with the addition of Kendrell Bell during the offseason, the emergence of Kawika Mitchell and the development of rookie sensation Derrick Johnson. The return of a healthy Barber or Maslowski would enable the Chiefs to continue their experiment with the 3-4 defense.
As hard as Barber has worked to return to the field, he doesn't feel the team needs him or another backer at this time.
"I don't think they need any help," Barber said. "Everybody's playing their role. I'm just going to come in and be another role player and fill in whenever my number's called."
Chiefs' head coach Dick Vermeil hopes that Barber can return to the field. He explained that the Chiefs have a three week window to make a decision on Barber once he starts practicing. The same three-week window the Patriots have with Bruschi.
"We could put him in a three-week window and start him working out and then make a decision at the end of three weeks what we want to do," Vermiel said. "Right now we're not a 100 percent sure."
Maslowski, who had orthoscopic surgery to address his knee injury after the Chiefs released him, continues to work towards a return to the game. Kansas City brought him in for a workout to evaluate him and to have a better understanding where he's at in case they decide they need another body if injuries force their hand.
In the meantime the Patriots will continue to evaluate their own personnel. New England will evaluate linebacker Tedy Bruschi who is returning to practice Wednesday for the first time in months. Bruschi hopes his return will bolster a linebacker group that has had difficulty containing opponents running backs.
The Patriots moved outside linebacker Mike Vrabel inside last week against the Broncos to see if that could help the problems in the middle. Monty Beisel, who missed practice time last week with an infection in his injured hand, has had a rough time in the middle. Fellow inside backer Chad Brown, who hasn't been hampered by injury, has also had difficulty picking up the slack in the middle.
Look for the Patriots to continue to make adjustments to their defense to plug some of the holes the first six weeks have exposed. New England's defense has fallen into the bottom third of the league. It is ranked 24th overall (25th rushing, 24th passing).
Patriots Insider Jon Scott contributed to this report.
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