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Patriots notebook

Morris back in backfield

Snaps limited in return from injury

By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / November 14, 2008
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FOXBOROUGH - Healthy running backs have been a rarity for the Patriots this season, but last night the Patriots finally got a runner back in the running, as Sammy Morris suited up for the first time since Oct. 20.

Morris missed the last three games because of a knee injury, but entered last night's game against the New York Jets as the Patriots' leading rusher with 307 yards on 69 carries and four rushing touchdowns.

Morris practiced Tuesday and Wednesday on a limited basis. During Tuesday's practice, Morris had a brace on his left knee.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis got the start last night in a 34-31 loss to the Jets, but Morris entered on the eighth play of the Patriots' first drive and carried for a 1-yard gain. He finished with five carries for 14 yards.

"I played all right, a little rusty, but I'll be good to go," said Morris.

Morris's return gave the Patriots four healthy backs - Morris, Green-Ellis, Kevin Faulk, and fullback Heath Evans - for the first time since the Patriots' 41-7 win over the Broncos Oct. 20.

Even with healthy running backs, the Patriots leading rusher last night was quarterback Matt Cassel, who had eight rushes for 62 yards.

Wheatley had surgery

According to a report in the Denver Post, Patriots rookie cornerback Terrence Wheatley underwent surgery last week to repair a dislocated left wrist. Wheatley, who was injured against the Colts Nov. 2, missed his second straight game.

The paper reported that Wheatley, a University of Colorado product, was spotted on Colorado's campus Tuesday.

"I knew exactly what happened this time because I'd done it before to the other hand," Wheatley told the newspaper. "It's a tough break. The NFL is a survival test, that's for sure."

Wheatley has a steel plate in his right wrist because of injuries he suffered at Colorado.

Keller a killer

Jets rookie tight end Dustin Keller left an impression on the Patriots. Keller had eight catches for 87 yards and caught three passes for 32 yards, including a 16-yard gain on third and 15, on New York's drive in overtime.

"He killed us on that last drive," said Patriots safety James Sanders. "A couple of dinks and dunks and the third and long, he just made some plays and we didn't."

Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said the third-and-15 play was huge.

"That is clearly advantageous to the defense, and not being able to close that out on that third down was a huge conversion for them," he said.

Warren not activated

The Patriots were not only without outside linebacker Adalius Thomas, who had surgery Wednesday for a broken right forearm, but defensive end Ty Warren was a surprising inactive with a groin injury.

Pierre Woods got the start for Thomas and finished with six tackles and a sack. Mike Wright replaced Warren at left defensive end and also had six tackles. But the Jets, who finished with 140 yards rushing, ran at Wright in the first half.

Still, Bruschi wasn't making any excuses because of injuries.

"That's the way it's been out there, starting with Tom [ Brady] at the beginning of the year. You got to deal with it," he said. "As the season rolls and rolls, guys are going to get hurt, guys are going to get aches and pains, and whoever is asked to play has to go out there and get the job done. We don't look at it as who is not out there. We look at it as how did the guys play that were out there? That's the way we see things."

A great catch

Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker extended his NFL record of consecutive games to start a season with six or more catches to 10. Welker, who had two catches for 26 yards at halftime, finished with seven catches for 108 yards, his second straight 100-yard receiving day . . . The Patriots lost center Dan Koppen briefly late in the second quarter with a left arm injury. On third and 1 from the Jets' 21, Evans took the handoff and ran into the back of Koppen's arm for a loss of 2 yards. Koppen was forced to leave the game and taken to the locker room. He was replaced by Russ Hochstein, but Koppen did return . . . Safety Ray Ventrone was injured on the opening kickoff . . . The Patriots rang up 511 yards of offense, a season high . . . Patriots injury inactives: Warren, Wheatley, Thomas, cornerback Lewis Sanders (hamstring), running back LaMont Jordan (right calf), and linebacker Eric Alexander (hamstring). Reserve tackle Wesley Britt was a healthy inactive and Matt Gutierrez was designated the third quarterback. The Jets were without leading tackler and starting inside linebacker David Harris (groin), who missed his third straight game.

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