Running back Kevin Faulk, who was a workhorse in the Patriots' victory over the Eagles last Sunday night, was held out of the team's practice yesterday with a thigh injury.
Faulk played 53 of a possible 73 snaps against the Eagles, with the Patriots favoring a spread offense with four receivers. Faulk's presence in that role is valuable because he is a strong pass protector, and while he is considered a third-down and change-of-pace option, he has actually played more than any other running back this season.
In Faulk's absence, the Patriots had just three running backs at practice - Laurence Maroney, Heath Evans, and Kyle Eckel.
This marks the second week in a row in which the 5-foot-8-inch, 202-pound Faulk has been slowed by a health issue. He was knocked out of the team's Nov. 18 win at Buffalo with a concussion.
With the Ravens next on the schedule - a team that blitzes as much as any in the NFL - Faulk's presence projects to take on added importance. In addition to Faulk, cornerback Randall Gay (back), guard Stephen Neal (shoulder), and receiver Wes Welker (team decision) had limited participation in practice.
Impact playerCount quarterback Tom Brady among those excited about receiver Troy Brown's activation.
"He's been working very, very hard. It's great to have him up and available," Brady said. "I sure hope he makes a big impact on the team. He always does, just with his leadership, his ability to bring people together, and he always has positive words. He's a great leader. He's a great teammate and everybody loves having Troy Brown."
Coach Bill Belichick noted Brown's role will be determined on a week-to-week basis.
"Troy is a versatile guy for us," he said. "He's done a lot of different things around here. He's played on offense, defense, special teams and, obviously, [he is a] very experienced player, a guy that has done a lot of different things, and I think ha
His boots a real boostAlthough he's punted an NFL-low 24 times, Chris Hanson earned praise from Belichick.
"He's given us some real good kicks in clutch situations where we needed the ball down the field and changed field position a little bit," Belichick said. "Like last week against Philadelphia, kicking out of the end zone, he gave us a great field-position punt and Kelley [Washington] gave us a big tackle on that for little or no return. That was a big play."
Belichick pointed out that well over 50 percent of punting is situational. He feels Hanson has handled the various situations - from downing punts inside the 10 to working with the wind - well.
"Is there room for improvement? Of course," Belichick said. "But I think he's been effective for us."
Jaworski not impressedESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst Ron Jaworski, who is widely respected for his thorough breakdown of videotape and knowledge of the game from having played quarterback, had been impressed with Patriots receiver Randy Moss until he watched Sunday night's game.
"It was the first time that I was personally disappointed in a Randy Moss performance," Jaworski said on a conference call yesterday. "I did not see the same energy on every single play that I had seen so far this season. When he was the No. 1 go-to guy on a route, he gave great effort and hustle. But there were some plays on the back side, when he wasn't the primary receiver, I did not see the great effort. Knowing how the Patriots handle things internally, I'm sure there have been some discussions [with] Randy that, 'Every snap, we need 100 percent out of you.' I thought a few times Tom tried to get him involved in the game and tried to force some balls in to him."
Jaworski, who pointed out the Patriots have run 72 percent of their passing plays from the shotgun formation, added the Patriots' offense is the best he's ever seen.