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Patriots notebook

Not ruling out Vick

Belichick calls returning QB ‘outstanding player’

By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / July 31, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - Prevailing media sentiment and Las Vegas oddsmakers have tied former Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who served a 23-month sentence for running a dogfighting ring, to the Patriots. Yesterday, coach Bill Belichick didn’t exactly douse the rumors.

Belichick did not rule out Vick joining the Patriots, but was not asked directly if the team was interested in him. However, when asked for his thoughts on Vick’s return to the NFL, Belichick was complimentary.

“You know, Michael is an outstanding player,’’ said Belichick. “He hasn’t played in a couple years, but right now our focus is on our team and our players, trying to get the New England Patriots ready. That’s really where my attention has been, but he’s a tremendous athlete.’’

Odds on Bodog.com listed the Patriots as 4-1 favorites to land Vick. After appearing in federal bankruptcy court yesterday in Newport News, Va., Vick told reporters, “We’re getting close,’’ when asked his progress in signing with a team.

A call to Vick’s agent, Joel Segal, was not returned.

The 29-year-old Vick, who served 18 months in federal prison followed by five months of home confinement, was partially reinstated to the NFL by commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday, seven days after his sentence ended. Goodell ruled that Vick can sign with an NFL team, practice right away, and play in the final two preseason games, but did not clear Vick for regular-season action. Goodell said a decision on full reinstatement for Vick would be made no later than the sixth week of the regular season.

Vick was suspended by Goodell in August 2007 after he admitted to funding an illegal dogfighting ring in Virginia. He has not played in the NFL since 2006.

Bringing Vick to Foxborough would not make Belichick popular with the PETA crowd. Belichick was asked a hypothetical about a player with a background that would prevent the team from pursuing him.

“Well, every situation would be evaluated on so many merits,’’ he said. “Depending on what the merits of the situation were, the research and the comfort level of all of that, if it was all right then it wouldn’t be a problem and, if it wasn’t, then it wouldn’t happen.’’

Among the missing
Cornerback Shawn Springs was not present at practice yesterday and the Patriots announced that Springs had been placed on the active/non-football injury list, joining rookie wide receiver Brandon Tate. According to two league sources, Springs had been sick last week.

Several veteran players participated in only one of the two practice sessions. Receivers Randy Moss and Joey Galloway and defensive end Jarvis Green sat out the morning session before participating in the afternoon. Linebacker Tedy Bruschi, defensive end Richard Seymour, left tackle Matt Light, right guard Stephen Neal, and center/guard Al Johnson were among the missing in the second session. All those players are either in their 30s or will turn 30 during the season.

Belichick, who has scheduled two-a-days for the first seven days of training camp, acknowledged that the workload of certain players does have to be managed.

“It’s really on an individual basis,’’ he said. “Certainly any player that is closer to the end of his career than the beginning, let’s put it that way, certainly you have to keep an eye on managing those players.’’

Ready to roll
Although Pierre Woods might not end up lining up in Mike Vrabel’s old spot, he starts as the front-runner to win a job opposite Adalius Thomas.

Is Woods motivated by the concern those outside of Foxborough have for filling the void at outside linebacker?

“I’m motivated regardless,’’ said Woods. “Coaches and the front office, had they not had confidence in me and the other guys that are here they would have brought some other people in. That speaks volumes there.’’

Owner of just one sack in three NFL seasons, Woods acknowledged that greater potency as a pass rusher needs to be part of his game.

“Each and every day I usually go do some pass rush [drills] and things like that,’’ he said. “So, definitely coming into this training camp I’m going to work harder at pass rush.’’

Wilfork in attendance
As expected, nose tackle Vince Wilfork, whose negotiations for a new contract are at a standstill, was present for the first day of camp . . . The Patriots officially announced the placement of five players on the physically unable to perform list - linebacker Shawn Crable, defensive end Ty Warren (offseason double groin, abdominal muscle, and right knee surgeries), rookie offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger, offensive tackle Mark LeVoir (shoulder), and rookie defensive lineman Darryl Richard . . . A downpour, which wide receiver Greg Lewis referred to as a “monsoon,’’ forced the Patriots to cut the morning session short by about 25 minutes. “Don’t mind a wet ball out there, but you’ve got to call it when thunder and lightning are in the area,’’ said Belichick . . . Although absent during the organized team activities and mandatory minicamp, inside linebacker Jerod Mayo and safety Brandon Meriweather were present for both practices . . . This is Belichick’s 10th season as Patriots coach. He was asked how he has changed in those 10 years. “I’d say I’m a lot friendlier,’’ he said with a grin.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Belichick on Vick

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