The Injury List Continues To Grow
Patriots Insider Staff
The New England Patriots were forced to put some players on the injured reserve list instead of waiting for them to heal. Out are cornerback Randall Gay who has been hobbled by an ankle injury, and center Dan Koppen who suffered a shoulder injury in the game against the Dolphins.
The Patriots have had more than their fair share of injured players in 2005, yet they manage to soldier on. The question is for how much longer.
To get some healthy bodies into the mix, the Patriots signed former Patriot offensive lineman Gene Mruczkowski who will backup Russ Hochstein, Koppen's replacement on Sunday. They also signed free agent cornerback Artrell Hawkins to assume Randall Gay's spot in the secondary.
Mruczkowski, who was released by the Patriots earlier this season (October 2, 2005), was originally acquired by the team as an undrafted free agent on May 16, 2003. The former Purdue Boilermaker spent the 2004 season as the backup center behind Koppen.
Hawkins is in his eighth NFL season, having spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals (1998-2003), Carolina Panthers (2004) and a brief stint with the Washington Redskins (2005). The University of Cincinnati Bearcat was originally drafted by the Bengals in the second round of the 1998 NFL Draft (43rd overall).
The Patriots are now without both starting corners for last season, including their backup cornerbacks. Effectively, they have moved to the third-string reserves as injuries have crippled the secondary. Looking at the names missing from last season's Super Bowl team is enough to make one wonder if the team can even make the playoffs in 2005.
Hawkins has had some success early in his career with the Bengals, and again with the Panthers as recently as 2004. He apparently beat out the other defensive backs who were in for a tryout with the team last week names that included; Pete Hunter, Ken Irvin and Donald Strickland.
Mruczkowski's signing was a safe signing for the Patriots who needed another experienced lineman on a unit also beset by injury. The loss of Koppen on top of the losses of Ashworth and Light means the Patriots will have two players left on the offensive line who started the season at that position. What makes it more challenging for the Patriots is that two of those starters are rookies, and the other two were backups headed into the season. Stephen Neal is the last starter standing.