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The wounds run deep

Injuries cut into Patriots' roster

FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots made an attempt at secrecy yesterday, but there were some things in the locker room that even they couldn't hide. The cast on Ted Washington's fractured left leg was clearly visible as he sat playing dominoes in the center of the spacious room, his crutches leaning on a trash bin.

Washington, who was injured five plays into Sunday's 23-16 victory over the Jets, does not speak to the media, so there was no chance of getting any updates or timetables from him. However, a source close to Washington described it as a "clean break. It was a small fracture."

The injury occured underneath a pile of Jets players, including center Kevin Mawae. Washington is expected to be out five or six weeks, according to the source, who said the injury was not in the area of the fibula fracture or ligament tear in his left foot that he sustained last September.

Another sight you couldn't miss was linebacker Mike Vrabel sporting a cast and sling on his right arm. Stacey James, the Patriots director of media relations, confirmed last night that Vrabel has a broken arm.

The official injury news released by the team was that guard Mike Compton and linebacker Rosevelt Colvin were placed on injured reserve, meaning they are gone for the season.

Compton, one of the team's most dependable players the past three seasons, was hurt in the Week 2 win over the Eagles and has been seeking second opinions the last few days. He will likely have surgery to repair a fracture in his right foot. It's not the best of timing for Compton, who is in the final year of his contract.

The Patriots also signed offensive lineman Wilbert Brown off waivers yesterday. Brown started nine of Washington's 14 games last season at guard and can back up at center. The team also added running back Patrick Pass for special teams duty. He takes Colvin's roster spot after the prized free-agent signee suffered a season-ending hip injury, also in Week 2.

Cornerback Ty Law, meanwhile, was limping noticeably as he made his way to his locker and then the trainer's room. He sprained his right ankle on a sideline play Sunday, colliding with Roman Phifer and coming down hard and awkward. At first it seemed he might not get up, but he came back to play. You have to wonder whether his one-on-one battle with Washington's Laveranues Coles will come off Sunday.

Other lockers were vacant because their occupants were off having medical tests at Boston-area hospitals or treatment in the trainer's room.

Quarterback Tom Brady was one of the missing, tending to a right elbow that has taken a beating in the first three games. The elbow, swollen to the size of a grapefruit immediately following the Eagles game, was jammed when Brady was sacked in the second quarter against the Jets. Brady walked off the field with his arm hanging at his side, but had it worked on and returned for the next series.

It's obvious that Brady is playing in some pain, though his tolerance is Groganesque.

Missing, too, was receiver David Patten, who went to have an MRI. X-rays done on Patten's right knee after the game were negative, but he had the MRI to check for cartilage or ligament damage.

Right tackle Adrian Klemm also suffered an undisclosed injury, which forced him out for most of the final two series. Belichick said Klemm's injury came under the category of "bumps and bruises" and that he would have to see how much practice time Klemm gets this week to determine his status for Sunday.

Fullback Fred McCrary has a sprained knee that has kept him out the past two weeks.

Even Willie McGinest sported a wrap on his wrist.

By tomorrow, when the Patriots are first required to report their injuries with the league, the list should be long.

Asked about the injury bug, linebacker Tedy Bruschi said, "Did you expect us to be in here hanging our heads? Well, we're not going to. What's happened has happened. The bottom line is, whoever is playing has got to get the job done, and that's the way we all feel.

"I'm numb to it because I have to be. I can't let it affect my mentality, I can't let it affect my play. I want guys to get better and get back to it as soon as they can. When I hit the field, when I hit the practice field or the locker room or in the meeting room, you can't think about it because I can't let it affect my preparation."

One byproduct of all the injuries is special teams adjustments. It seems Bruschi rarely gets a breather, something that could make him more susceptible to injury. Special teamers Matt Chatham and Don Davis will likely get more playing time at linebacker, which affects their special teams play.

Law probably won't practice much this week. The Patriots certainly liked what they saw from rookie Asante Samuel, who returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown against the Jets, but asking him to shadow Coles might be too much.

It appears the Patriots will stay with rookie Dan Koppen at center, with Damien Woody at right guard and Joe Andruzzi at left guard. Tom Ashworth will play for Klemm if he can't go.

The most severe dropoff in talent could be in the middle of the defensive line and at linebacker. Belichick said he would not rule out using Richard Seymour at nose tackle on some plays. Rick Lyle did a "solid job" against the Jets, according to Belichick, but Lyle is more of an end. It may be that No. 1 draft pick Ty Warren is force-fed into playing more than the Patriots wanted.

The linebacking corps is in shambles. If Vrabel can't play, would the Patriots use Chatham or go with more of a 4-3 alignment? That is something Belichick said he and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel would huddle on this week.

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