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PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK

Freeman's experience sticking point

FOXBOROUGH -- Safety Arturo Freeman, who signed with the Patriots Wednesday, said being out of the game the first five weeks of the season was ''scary," considering he knows he has the ability to play in the league.

''You realize it's not about talent," Freeman said in the locker room yesterday at Gillette Stadium. ''It's about the business side of it.

''Sometimes you find yourself outside looking in for whatever reason, but I'm blessed and fortunate to have done well enough to have this opportunity."

Freeman, 28, was in Miami for the first five years of his career, starting 29 games, including nine last year. But after coach Dave Wannstedt was fired, the Dolphins released Freeman early in the offseason.

Freeman shopped around the league and landed in Green Bay, where Jim Bates, his defensive coordinator in Miami, was hired. That proved to be a mistake. After helping Bates teach the defense to the Packers' secondary, Freeman noticed he was way down on the depth chart, so he asked to be released during training camp.

He ran into a salary-cap squeeze in Tennessee, and spent the last six weeks working out at his home in South Florida. He visited Minnesota a week ago, but he said the Vikings were not looking to sign anyone immediately.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Freeman's experience set him apart from other candidates to fill the roster spot of Chad Scott, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a shoulder injury. The Patriots have lost two defensive backs -- Scott and safety Rodney Harrison -- from their opening game roster. Safety Michael Stone was added when Harrison went down with a season-ending knee injury, but he has yet to see any action on defense.

Older and wiser

Running back Corey Dillon continues to have fun with the media, using his age as a reason he cannot give interviews.

When approached yesterday, Dillon smiled and said, ''Me being too old, being 31, I'm a little hoarse. [Age] is deteriorating my throat."

Dillon then suggested the Patriots help his day-to-day routine with some locker room construction.

''They need to put in an old man ramp so I can get in here easier," he said.

Last week, Dillon became the 18th rusher in NFL history to top the 10,000-yard mark.

''Obviously, it says a lot for the player and what he's been able to accomplish: No. 1, the skill of the player and, No. 2, his durability," Belichick said. ''He's carried the ball a lot and he's carried it very effectively. He has a running style that can work in a lot of different ways with his speed, his power, his quickness, and his run vision. It's a very significant individual accomplishment."

Finger injury for Beisel

There was only one change to the Patriots' injury report, and it could prove significant.

Linebacker Monty Beisel is questionable with a finger injury. Beisel, who did not have protective wrapping on either hand before practice Wednesday, missed some or all of yesterday's practice.

The Patriots list 15 players as probable, including Richard Seymour. The defensive end walked through the locker room without a noticeable limp, but he was not on the field for the opening stage of practice. Willie McGinest (finger), Dillon (ankle), and Troy Brown (foot) also did not participate in the first part of practice.

Belichick said Seymour is doing well.

''He's feeling better. He's looking better," Belichick said. ''He's a lot better than he was last week. So he's upgraded from where he was last week."

Seymour was listed as questionable and did not play against Atlanta.

Inside information

Belichick is pleased with the progress of Beisel and Chad Brown at inside linebacker.

''They've both been very dependable," Belichick said. ''They have gotten a lot of snaps. They've been able to be out there on a weekly basis and understand it and get better. I think they've improved. I think they started at a good level and I think they've improved with each game. I think they're doing well and I think they can do better. There are some things that they need to work on. They're both instinctive football players, smart guys that when you tell them something, they understand it."

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