FOXBOROUGH -- When John Lynch was a free agent after the 2003 season, he was courted by the Broncos, Patriots, and Jets. Could the hard-hitting safety have envisioned himself in New England?
''It came close," said Lynch, who visited Gillette Stadium for a physical and met with owner Robert Kraft, vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli, and the coaching staff (minus Bill Belichick, who was on vacation).
Lynch said concerns over a neck injury ultimately might have cooled the Patriots' interest. The 13-year veteran signed with the Broncos, who face the Patriots this Sunday.
The Patriots were coming off their victory over the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII and Lynch remembers asking why they were interested in him, with Rodney Harrison and Eugene Wilson returning.
''Coach Belichick's answer to that was that when good football players become available, they find places for them to play," Lynch said.
Lynch, who has been compared with Harrison because of his bone-crunching hits, sent a note to the injured Harrison through Patriots trainer Jim Whalen. Lynch knows Whalen from their time together with the Buccaneers, and he respects Harrison's contributions to the game.
''It was a sad day for me," Lynch said. ''I just wanted to communicate to him that I love the way he plays the game. I hope whatever is in his best interests happens for him. If his career is over, he's had a tremendous run."
Light stays hopeful
Offensive tackle Matt Light spoke with reporters yesterday for the first time since breaking the fibula in his right leg. He had a cast around the lower part of his right leg that extended to his toes.
Asked whether he'll return this season, Light said, ''I hope so. I can't ever say for certain when you have an injury. But I would love to have the ability to do that."
Light said he had no timetable for how long he'd be sidelined.
On rookie Nick Kaczur's performance in his absence, he said, ''He's done a great job. I've watched him out there, and you talk about playing in some of the toughest conditions you can possibly imagine. You're on the road, No. 1. You're a young guy, No. 2, and you haven't experienced a lot of what the league can throw at you. I had to deal with that. I know what he's going through and it's not an easy situation. I think he's handled it really well."
Light hasn't spent much time in Foxborough since suffering the injury against the Steelers Sept. 25. But he's not surprised at how the team has responded.
''What goes on in our locker room, nobody really knows," he said. ''Those guys have all been there before, they've dealt with a lot of adversity, and we've played through a lot of things in the years past.
''I think people draw on that. I think a lot of the guys that have been there -- and the guys who really lead the team -- they know how to get the guys' mind-set right and how to bounce back after a loss.
''It's tough, it's tough to do when you have a situation like this with so many injuries. At the same time, there's no other place to go. There's nothing else you can do, you have to play with what you've got. Those are all great players. They all work hard, and I have a lot of faith in them to go out and do what it takes."
Poole feels ready
Cornerback Tyrone Poole, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury since starting the season opener against the Raiders, said he could have played against the Falcons.
''I told Bill and the trainers I could go now," he said. ''But they didn't want to do anything to hurt the team."
Poole said his ankle responded well to returning to the practice field last week. Now, with the bye week coming after Sunday's game in Denver, the team must weigh two factors in activating Poole. While his return would provide a jolt to a secondary in need of help, the chance to give his ankle two more weeks of rest might have greater long-term benefits.
Asked what he'd tell fans curious about his recovery, Poole said, ''Tell them I'm doing excellent."
On the plane ride home after the Patriots' win over the Falcons, rookie nose tackle Mike Wright was congratulated by fourth-year lineman Jarvis Green. The two talked for nearly an hour after Wright was in for eight plays (mostly on third down), marking the most extensive action of his young career.
Wright said what Green did is commonplace around the locker room. He then rattled off other examples of teammates taking him under his wing:
Vince Wilfork invited him to his home in preseason to break up the monotony of training camp; Marquise Hill showed him around the Foxborough area in his first week with the team, then Dan Klecko did the same; Rodney Harrison talked to him on cut-down weekend about not getting a big head about making the team; Willie McGinest pulled him aside at practice to tutor him on one of the finer points of the game.
''Guys have gone out of their way to help out," he said. ''I talk to other guys I played with in college and they tell me it's not like that everywhere.
''Guys like me, you count your blessings. Each week I'm here, it's a great weight off my shoulders."
Tricky on Vick
NFC information manager Michael Signora said the Falcons didn't violate the league's injury policy with quarterback Michael Vick, who was probable for three days, then downgraded to questionable Saturday. Vick didn't play against the Patriots, but Signora said the Falcons followed the league's rules, noting that Vick was reported to have missed portions of practice each day.
Interesting comment by Falcons coach Jim Mora Monday when asked by Atlanta reporters if he'd decided who would practice today:
''No. I will tell you Wednesday. I have to believe that Michael made progress. We will see if it is enough in my opinion to play him. He will work out today. I am sure he will do some stuff tomorrow, and we should have a good feel Wednesday. Of course, I told you that last week, too. Why would you ever believe me right now? I wouldn't. I don't want you to, though."
Running back Corey Dillon, who didn't finish Sunday's game against the Falcons, walked through the locker room without trouble Monday and doesn't appear to have sustained a serious injury . . . Linebacker Eric Alexander, who was activated off the practice squad prior to Sunday's game, was waived yesterday, a possible sign that linebacker Matt Chatham is recovering from a knee injury. Chatham did not play against the Falcons. Little-known fact about Alexander: Late last season, the Packers wanted to sign him off the Patriots' practice squad, but he said he declined the offer . . . When Belichick spoke of a ''good operation" on Adam Vinatieri's game-winning field goal against the Falcons, what exactly did he mean? With the snap, hold, and kick, the Patriots want the entire process to take 1.3-1.4 seconds, according to long snapper Lonie Paxton.
The Patriots worked out some free agent defensive backs yesterday, including Hank Poteat, Arturo Freeman, Mario Edwards, Terrell Buckley, Aaron Beasley, and Rod Babers. Poteat played with the Patriots at the end of the 2004 season, and Buckley was with the club from 2001-02. The team has an open roster spot after waiving Alexander . . . The Patriots worked out former Broncos running back Quinton Griffin and quarterback Todd Mortensen Monday.
Mike Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jerome Solomon of the Globe staff contributed to this report.