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PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK

Safety had no escape route

FOXBOROUGH -- Just think. The Patriots could be going to Denver this week to face Rodney Harrison's Broncos.

The Chargers released Harrison, the Patriots' cocaptain and arguably their most valuable player on defense for the first eight games, on Feb. 27, and the two-time Pro Bowl safety was to visit Denver after he left New England. He never got there, and on March 12 signed a six-year, $14 million deal with the Patriots.

The Broncos were talking pretty much the same dollars, and Harrison loved the idea of playing for Denver coach Mike Shanahan. So that must have been some sales pitch by Bill Belichick and vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli.

"I never thought I'd be here," Harrison said yesterday. "Denver was probably my top choice. I wanted to go there because I have so much respect for Mike Shanahan. I saw what he did with their program and the talented guys they had out there. That was really a place I wanted to go. I had a chance to come here and they wouldn't allow me to leave.

"It was a matter of being in a situation where I felt comfortable, where I felt like I could just play football and not have to worry about someone judging me or whatever. [Belichick] opened it up and said, `I want you here,' and made me feel comfortable."

Said Harrison's agent, Steven Feldman, "There was absolutely nothing Denver did wrong. It was about what New England did right."

It looks as though Harrison made the right choice. The Patriots credit him with 67 tackles to go along with 2 interceptions, 7 pass deflections, and 1 fumble recovery.

"To be honest with you, they did a great selling point," Shanahan said. "His agent and Rodney, I talked to both of them and they guaranteed us that he would visit. So I tip my hat to the Patriots that once they got him in to Foxborough that they signed him."

Not in giving mood

Tom Brady has not thrown an interception since Week 4 at Washington -- a span of 132 attempts. Brady is no stranger to such periods of turnover-free football. You may recall that he holds the league record for consecutive attempts without an interception to begin a career, 162. It ended when he threw the first of four second-half interceptions at Denver in the fifth start of his career.

"[I'm] doing a better job of seeing the concepts of the play," Brady said of his current run. "Understanding where the defensive guys are. I just haven't been making as many bad decisions, and I would really like to keep that up. I'm trying to be one of those guys that hardly ever throws them. It's just about throwing the ball in the right spot and making sure that if your guys don't catch it, they're not going to catch it, either."

No-name starter

Mike Cloud was inactive, and Antowain Smith carried three times last Sunday in his first game after missing two with a left shoulder/neck injury, while Kevin Faulk has carried 55 times over the last three weeks. Belichick, though, refused to officially name Faulk the Patriots' starting running back. "Again, we have confidence in all three of our backs," Belichick said. "I think that all three of them are going to be productive. How it goes from game to game, that could vary a little bit. Kevin has done a good job. I'm sure that he will continue to be productive and get opportunities. I think they all can contribute." . . . Denver native Daniel Graham on visiting teams dealing with the Rocky Mountain altitude: "I played my college career there [University of Colorado], saw all the opposing teams. I don't think they really had a problem. So I don't think it's a big deal."

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