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PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK

Backup plan still a secret

Huard and Davey await the decision

FOXBOROUGH -- Whether the competition to be Tom Brady's backup is too close to call or coach Bill Belichick simply doesn't want to show his hand, he wasn't ready yesterday to do what he did two years ago when he declared Brady the winner over Damon Huard as Drew Bledsoe's backup.

Huard, who said he was told by coaches to be prepared to play Wednesday night, never got off the bench in the Patriots' 38-23 win over Chicago. Rohan Davey relieved Brady with 11:48 remaining in the second quarter and played the rest of the game, connecting on 13 of 24 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown.

Davey threw 42 passes (completing 20) in the exhibition season, and Huard attempted only 15 throws. The Patriots obviously wanted to get a long look at Davey because they're more familiar with Huard. The Brady-Bledsoe situation is evidence that losing your starting quarterback does not always signal the demise of your team, which the Falcons (Michael Vick) and Jets (Chad Pennington) are about to test.

If Brady went down, could the experienced Huard bear the load? Is the inexperienced Davey ready?

"To try to build myself up and say things that make me look better, it's just not the right thing to do," Huard said. "Rohan is a good young player who's a great prospect with good qualities. There's always competition at every position. If it doesn't make you better, it's not a good thing. I think the competition makes you better."

Lacina among cuts The Patriots made one surprising cut among six yesterday as veteran guard Corbin Lacina was let go. The roster, which now stands at 64 players, must be cut to 53 by Sunday at 4 p.m. Also dispatched were running back Frank Moreau, offensive lineman Brad Harris, tight end Rod Trafford, Brown fullback Mike Malan, and defensive back Dyshod Carter . . . The players have today and tomorrow off before returning Sunday to prepare for the Sept. 7 opener against Buffalo. But a sign that Belichick was not pleased with Wednesday's performance was that no more than 15 hours after the game, the Patriots were practicing in helmets and shells . . . The Patriots cut punter Daniel Pope last week, but Ken Walter only averaged 26.5 yards on two punts against the Bears. Belichick also wasn't pleased with the kickoff coverage as the Bears averaged 30.6 yards on seven returns. "If there's two punts in the preseason I want back, it's those two," said Walter. "It's something that's very fixable. I watched the film, and I just need to go out and correct my mistakes." . . . Brady, a two-year holder at Michigan, held for Adam Vinatieri early in the second quarter, raising a few eyebrows. Walter is the usual holder, and Huard is the backup. If Huard was the third quarterback, that would eliminate him as a backup holder. And Walter's performance did little for his job security. Huard, asked if he's in competition with Brady as a holder, said, "[Brady] doesn't realize I'm in the Hall of Fame as a holder, for most field goals attempted in a season [46] by [Miami's] Olindo Mare. I keep reminding [special teams coach] Brad [Seely] of that, too."

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