Patriots Notes: Injuries and Trade Rumors

The New England Patriots are back at practice and getting ready to roll into the remaining 11 games of the season. The team suffered a few bumps and bruises on their way to a 4-1 record and are facing more injury problems. Tuesday also marks the trade deadline, which will bring an end to the the speculation that the team will add another body -- possibly Randy Moss -- to the mix at receiver.

Trade Winds Blowing?

Don't expect the Patriots to make a trade for more wide receivers from Oakland one league source told Patriots Insider. With four new faces on the roster at that position, adding yet another new face that doesn't know the offense is a bit of a stretch.

The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, but as expected, coach Bill Belichick was tight-lipped on whether the team would be making any moves.

"I wouldn't say we're actively trying to do anything," Belichick said. "But I also would say that if an opportunity was there, we would definitely look into it, like we would any other day of the year."

That perspective didn't prevent Doug Gabriel - one of those four new faces - from lobbying for the Patriots to bring in his former teammate at Oakland, Randy Moss.

"He can fit in this offense because he's a guy who loves to work," Gabriel said of Moss yesterday. "If Randy was here, he'd make every other receiver want to pick up their game 110 percent."

That 110 percent would put the Patriots receivers closer to the pace set by the unit in 2005 when Tom Brady threw for a career-best 4,110 passing yards in a season. New England receivers accounted for 2823 receiving yards in 2005, or 68% of the total passing offense.

In 2006, Patriots receivers have managed only 466 of the team's 989 receiving yards. That production accounts for only 47% of the team's total passing offensive output.

Trickle Down Injury Effect:

-- OL Russ Hochstein has a sprained knee and will likely not be able to practice this week. Hochstein injured the knee last week and probably won't be available to play on Sunday at Buffalo.

Hochstein's injury is important to note because he is center Dan Koppen's primary backup. It was Hochstein who stepped in to fill the void when Koppen was sidelined with injury last year.

Who is Hochstein's backup?

On-again, currently off-again, lineman Gene Mruczkowski was the third option at center in 2005, and again in 2006. The Patriots released Mruczkowski a few weeks ago. The other player the team had at center was Ross Tucker who was traded to the Browns during the preseason.

The only other player to see extended reps at center is offensive lineman Billy Yates, currently on the Patriots practice squad.

Once again, the Patriots have gone from a position of strength (having four centers on the roster) to an area of concern (having only one active center).


--According to a recent poll conducted by Harris Interactive, the Patriots are the fifth most popular team in the NFL right now. The Steelers and Cowboys are the two most popular teams, with the Jaguars coming in as the least popular.

--"I'm just really excited to be here. I guess this is the goal of every NFL player, to get to that second contract. It doesn't happen as much as people think, and it's one of those things that when you're playing, you can't worry about it. You do what's best for your team, try to win games, and everything else takes care of itself." -- C Dan Koppen, after signing a five-year extension to stay with the Patriots.

--RB Patrick Pass began the year on the physically unable to perform list, and there was speculation that he may be activated by the team coming out of the bye week. However, Bill Belichick said Monday that Pass still isn't ready to play and won't be activated.

The team has 21 days to make a decision on whether to activate Pass or keep him on the PUP list - saving a roster spot. If the team opts to activate him, there is another window where Pass will need to start practicing or be placed on the reserve-injured list, effectively ending his season.

--WR Jabar Gaffney was signed last week and is expected to see action against Buffalo this Sunday.

"If there is ever a good time to bring a player onto your team, (the bye week) is it, because you're not so in depth into a game plan situation," Belichick said. "Last week, we were able to take some time with Jabar and Brian (Daboll), our receivers coach, and just sit down with him and go over our basic passing game, route adjustments, rules, splits, depths and all those kind of things. Now we'll try to apply that to a specific game plan against Buffalo."

--As long as they're both healthy, expect Chad Jackson and Doug Gabriel to get their second consecutive starts at receiver this week. That would allow the Patriots to get their two most dangerous receivers on the field at once, backed up by Troy Brown, Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney.

--Despite getting more playing time, OLB Tully Banta-Cain has only registered 0.5 sacks this season. The good news for Banta-Cain, and the bad news for the Patriots, is Mike Vrabel currently has the same amount of sacks, and Rosevelt Colvin only has a half-sack more than Banta-Cain.

-- TE Dan Graham who sat out last week with an ankle injury was back at practice. "The break gave me time to rest, get better and heal up," Graham said yesterday. " I'm trying to prepare myself to get back on the field."


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