Notebook: Sanders, Ryan & More

Patriots Notes: Arguably one of the biggest impact players in Patriots history has retired, can James Sanders fill his shoes? What gives with the Rex Ryan tough talk?

Sanders Has Big Shoes To Fill

S James Sanders has come a long way in a short time in New England. With Rodney Harrison announcing his retirement and the likes of Ellis Hobbs, Asante Samuel, Eugene Wilson and Ty Law long gone, Sanders is the now the most experienced returning player in the Patriots very much re-tooled secondary. Having started every game he's played in over the last two years and 36 total in his four previous season, the former fourth-round pick re-signed with New England as a free agent this spring and is looking to be a leader of the group.

"It's kind of weird," Sanders said of his elevated role. "[Defensive coordinator] Dean Pees and some of the guys joke from time to time, 'You're the old guy now.' And I'm like, 'The old guy? I'm 25. Damn.' But I am one of the older guys in terms of experience. Even though I've been here for a while I still go out each and every day and play and practice as if I'm a rookie.

"Since I've been here we've had a lot of injuries so I've always known the defense and been one of the verbal guys back their making our communications. We're all going to be leaders. As a safety in this defense you have to be one of the verbal leaders and take charge at times. We have a bunch of young guys that are capable of doing that and willing to do that."

Attendence Check

Seventy-eight players took the field for the Patriots most recent OTA session that was open to the media June 2. The group included the addition of LB Tedy Bruschi and OL Al Johnson, both of whom had missed the previous passing camp workout that was open to the media. The 13 players currently listed on New England's roster (including technically unsigned draft picks) not on the field for the practice work included WR Tyree Barnes, WR Shun White, WR Brandon Tate, S Brandon Meriweather, RB Sammy Morris, CB Mike Richardson, S Ray Ventrone, LB Jerod Mayo, T Mark LeVoir, NT Vince Wilfork, DE Ty Warren and DE Jarvis Green. Most of the absences are due to continued rehab from offseason medical procedures.

Rex Ryan Stirring The Pot

Apparently first-year Jets coach and former Ravens coordinator Rex Ryan isn't worried about quietly sliding into the battle for the AFC East or the always interesting rivalry between New York and New England. He's hit the Big Apple guns blazing.

"I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's, you know, rings," Ryan said in a recent interview on WFAN radio in New York. "I came to win. Let's just put it that way. So we'll see what happens. I'm certainly not intimidated by New England or anybody else."

He was then asked whether he felt he needed to send the team that's dominated the division for the better part of the last eight seasons a message.

"I think we already have sent a message to them," Ryan said. "So they can read between the lines. ... They can figure it out. And when they come here that second week of the season, we'll see."

The Border War continues.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "When I played, I didn't have many friends. I'm sure I'm not going to make many friends now." -- Retired Patriots safety Rodney Harrison on his new job as an analyst for NBC and his not being afraid to share his honest opinions.

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