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For Starks, it's painful to watch

Cornerback eager for an active role

FOXBOROUGH -- Duane Starks's thigh injury is far less painful to him than the pain he felt having to sit and watch the Patriots play the season opener against Oakland.

Starks sat and watched the game in the suite set aside for inactive players, though he indicated he believes he was healthy enough to play.

Asked to describe the feeling of being among the Patriots' eight inactive players for the game, Starks, who came to New England in a trade this past offseason, said it was ''treacherous."

''I don't wish that on anyone," he said. ''But, I mean many players go through it in their career and it's something you've got to live with and get past.

''When you know you're out -- like when I had the [torn knee ligament, missing the 2003 season] two years ago -- when you know you're out, you can pretty much deal with it. You sit back and you watch and you know that there's nothing that you can do.

''But when you're not really hurt, you know, then you look and say, 'I want to be out there. I'm not used to being on the sideline.' That's what gets you."

Starks dressed for practice yesterday, though on the official injury report he was listed as questionable for this week's game at Carolina and according to the report missed a portion of practice.

The Patriots have six cornerbacks on the roster. Starks was the only one inactive for the opener, though Tyrone Poole (ankle) and Chad Scott (shoulder) are now listed on the injury report as questionable and missed some portion of yesterday's practice.

Getting his Irish up

Quarterback Tom Brady reluctantly made good on a bet he made with Notre Dame head coach and former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis by wearing a Notre Dame cap during yesterday's news conference. Whether Weis accepts payment for the friendly wager on whether the Fighting Irish would beat Brady's Michigan Wolverines is another story. Brady wore two caps -- a Notre Dame football cap turned backward, and a Patriots hat facing forward -- and bragged that Notre Dame wins over Michigan don't happen very often. ''I've got my true colors on underneath . . . my Patriot colors," Brady said. ''They got lucky." . . . Defensive end Richard Seymour (thigh) wasn't on the field for the beginning of practice and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game . . . Fellow lineman Jarvis Green wore a red jersey at practice (indicating non-contact), his injury now listed as a thigh problem instead of shoulder.

Safety valve

With James Sanders sidelined last week and possibly longer, the Patriots have called on linebacker Don Davis to fill the same role he did last year. The 6-foot-1-inch, 235-pound Davis played last week as a backup safety and was seen in Thursday's pregame warmups playing safety with the second team. ''It hasn't totally been addressed just yet -- them saying 'This is where you are, this is what happened,' " Davis said. ''But you're always ready." The 32-year-old Davis is one of the Patriots' core special teams players. He made his first career start at safety against the Jets last season (Dec. 26) when Eugene Wilson moved to cornerback to help shore up the injury-ravaged spot. Davis also started at safety the next week in the season finale against the 49ers . . . Free agent quarterback Jesse Palmer will work out for the Patriots soon, according to his agent, Peter Schaffer. The 6-2, 225-pound Palmer, better known for his TV role as ''The Bachelor," was cut by the Giants Sept. 3. Palmer previously worked out for the Texans . . . New England flip-flopped two players on its practice squad again, dropping linebacker Andre Torrey and adding safety Raymond Ventrone. The team made the opposite move with the two a week ago . . . Former Patriots defensive back Otis Smith, who is hosting 30 evacuees at his home in Gaithersburg, Md., in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, can be reached at OSmith45@att.net for those who want to find ways to help.

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