FOXBOROUGH -- Veteran punter Josh Miller, who enters his fourth season with the Patriots, appears frustrated at the way his competition is unfolding with youngsters Danny Baugher and Tom Malone. After being held out of the preseason opener, Miller was asked how he would assess his performance in camp.
"It's been OK," he said yesterday. "I'm happy. I'd rather get a chance to do it in a game, but as far as being ready to play, I'm ready to play. I have no answers. I don't know when I'll be in there. All I know is that I'm healthy and ready to go. That's all I got."
Miller, who has also shared holding duties with backup quarterback Matt Cassel in practice, was asked if coach Bill Belichick and special teams coach Brad Seely might be sending him a message.
"I don't know. I'm 37, I don't need much to get me going," he answered. "But I'm sure he's going to do what he feels is best for the team. He promised that. I'm sure he'll do that."
Does he still feel part of the team's plans?
"I don't have a clue," Miller said. "I can just show that I'm healthy, show that I have some stuff left in the tank, and that's about it. That's all I can do."
Irate about ratings
Running back Laurence Maroney
was seeing red when he spoke with the media, and it wasn't because of the color of his noncontact jersey. The subject of Maroney's mock ire was his speed rating in the popular "Madden NFL 08" video game, which was released yesterday.
In the game, which bears the name of Hall of Fame coach John Madden, Maroney was assigned a 91 on a scale of 100 for speed, according to teammate Donte' Stallworth. (The rating is actually 90.) That upset Maroney, particularly because Stallworth received a 97, same as Randy Moss.
"Madden must not have watched you for a while," said Maroney to Stallworth. "Not since you've been with us. Unless you did some things with the Eagles I didn't see, I haven't seen 95 or 97 out here today."
Actually, the former Raiders coach and current NBC broadcaster doesn't assign the ratings. The developers, among approximately 400 people involved in the game's production, receive the same NFL coaches' tapes that the 32 teams receive, and they speak with head and assistant coaches, according to Chris Erb, director of marketing for NFL business at Electronic Arts, the maker of the game.
Erb said players often quibble with their ratings.
"Constantly," he said. "You think he's the first person to ask for a speed increase? We hear from every guy in the NFL."
Stallworth said that even if Maroney is not a breakaway back in the virtual world, he is in the real one.
"He gets to the outside, it's over for a lot of guys," said Stallworth. "If I was out there playing defense, I'd have to run him down."
Tight end Benjamin Watson
, who missed the preseason opener, returned to full-pads practice for the first time since Aug. 6, when he hobbled off the field following an incomplete pass. "I feel good," said Watson, who looked unhindered in practice. "Sometimes your body won't let you, but I'm glad to be out on the field. To us, it's about being out on the field with your teammates, and it's always tough when you can't do that." With Watson's return, the Patriots had four tight ends at practice. Garrett Mills
, Marcellus Rivers
, and Brian Jones
were the others . . . Aug. 7 would have been Marquise Hill's
25th birthday. The Patriots' defensive lineman drowned following a Jetski accident in his native New Orleans on Memorial Day. The Patriots are wearing a decal with Hill's number (91) on the back of their helmets. Defensive lineman Jarvis Green
, a teammate of Hill's at Louisiana State, said that before he takes the field, he touches his decal. "And when I'm on the field, I'm always patting on it to just remind me of him. He's always going to be in my heart," said Green, who lost another former LSU teammate, Dave Peterson
, in a motorcycle accident last month. Green said being around football tends to remind him of Hill. "I think of him more," said Green. "It's going to be like that for the upcoming year. It's hard, man."
Sitting it out
The NFL's official website reported that defensive end Ty Warren
has been sidelined with a sprained elbow, but the injury is not considered serious. Warren was one of seven Patriots to miss yesterday's full-pads practice, a group that also included Moss and safety Artrell Hawkins
. . . Stallworth took his most extended practice repetitions, working with a top group that included Jabar Gaffney
and Wes Welker
. . . The practice lasted more than two hours as both the offense and defense struggled, and at one point the entire defense took a lap around the field. "We didn't get the personnel right," cornerback Ellis Hobbs
explained. "The main focus of that is that when the game situation comes around, we don't have time for all the screw-ups. When we don't get it right, we have to pay for it." . . . Owner Robert Kraft
was at practice and chatted with coaches from his alma mater, Columbia, who were guests . . . Belichick had high praise for linebacker and special teams captain Larry Izzo
, calling him "one of the most professional guys" he's been around in 33 years coaching in the NFL . . . The Patriots practice twice today -- at 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. -- and both sessions are open to the public. They are the last practices open to the public in training camp.
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