Notebook: Familiar Faces Missing

The Patriots are without a number of familar faces at their OTAs. Gone are Mike Vrabel, Matt Cassel, Rodney Harrison and company, but the new guys are already stepping in to fill their shoes.

Missing Familiar Faces

Once again, the absence of several notable players stood out among all the hoopla surrounding QB Tom Brady's return. Brady himself couldn't help but notice that Mike Vrabel and Rodney Harrison -- two of the mainstays on defense during his tenure -- are no longer in New England.

"You guys notice that too, huh?" Brady said. "Yeah, Vrabel, Rodney ... there's definitely not as much noise. We miss those guys, we love those guys, they're our great friends. We wish them well."

Asked if he was surprised by Vrabel's trade to Kansas City, Brady said, "I'm not surprised by anything anymore. It's part of this game, it's part of the league. I know Mike's happy to have a job. I know he misses us, but if we ever play Kansas City, we want to beat the crap out of him."

Maroney's Return Game

--The idea of Laurence Maroney being on his way out might be somewhat overblown.

One of the major sightings at Thursday's workout, besides Brady, was that of Maroney working as a kick returner on special teams. That's been his role in the past, though Ellis Hobbs took hold of it the past two seasons. Hobbs is now in Philadelphia, so the Patriots need a replacement.

Can Maroney win the job? This would be a good way for him to work himself back in the good graces of the coaching staff following a disappointing, injury-plagued 2008 season.

Lenon Adds Depth

The Patriots recently signed linebacker Paris Lenon to add some depth at that position following a season-ending injury to rookie Tyrone McKenzie.

Lenon spent the first eight years of his career in Detroit and Green Bay, so he has plenty of experience and should have no problem grasping the system upon his arrival. The Patriots have most of their starting group in place with Jerod Mayo, Tedy Bruschi and Adalius Thomas back for another season, but there are questions as to who will replace Vrabel on the outside and establish a pass-rushing presence opposite Thomas.

Lenon hasn't played much 3-4, though he was a middle linebacker in Detroit's 4-3 scheme last season.

Height Has It's Advantages

Cornerback Leigh Bodden, who signed a one-year deal with the Patriots during the offseason, got his feet wet early Thursday by covering star WR Randy Moss during practice drills.

At 6-feet-1, Bodden represents one of the tallest cornerbacks on the roster, which is a major contrast to players the Patriots have employed in the past, such as Ellis Hobbs and Asante Samuel. At one point during drills, Bodden broke up a pass intended for Moss, showing nice timing before his jump.

The veteran cornerback will be one of several players competing for the job of replacing Hobbs in the starting lineup.

They Said It: "Talk is cheap. I'm going to do the best I can do. I can't wait to get out and start playing games." -- Tom Brady on whether or not he can revert to his 2007 form in 2009.

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