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An outside shot for the Patriots

Burgess fills glaring need for pass rusher

By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / August 8, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - Derrick Burgess didn’t arrive in time to take part in the Patriots’ walkthrough yesterday morning at Gillette Stadium, but it was clear the team was eagerly anticipating the arrival of the veteran pass rusher, who was acquired Thursday via a trade with the Raiders.

Burgess became unwanted in Oakland, where he had become persona non grata after begging out of minicamp with “sickness’’ and boycotting training camp. But he is a welcome addition in New England, which might have plugged the team’s one glaring weakness - outside linebacker.

Burgess’s new teammates and coach, Bill Belichick, expressed excitement about the addition of the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end, who projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker for the Patriots.

“It’s a huge pickup for us,’’ said nose tackle Vince Wilfork. “I can’t wait for him to get in here and [to] start playing around with him, and we’ll go from there.’’

Even though Burgess was exiled in NFL Siberia the past four seasons in Oakland, Wilfork said he knows what type of player the Patriots are getting in the former Raider and Eagle, who led the NFL in sacks with 16 in 2005 and has 47 in eight seasons.

“I’ve seen him around the league, I’ve seen his play and I love it,’’ said Wilfork. “Hopefully he can bring that same type of play here and help us win some ballgames.’’

Belichick confirmed yesterday the Patriots had considered a deal for Burgess, who turns 31 Wednesday, before the draft in April, saying he spoke with Raiders owner Al Davis.

A week into training camp, the Patriots decided to pull the trigger on a conditional trade that sends Oakland a 2010 third-round pick and either a 2010 fourth- or fifth-round pick. (The Patriots don’t have a 2010 fifth-round pick, but if they acquire one, it would go to the Raiders in lieu of the fourth-rounder.)

That is a significant price for a player the Patriots could only have for a season. Burgess is in the final year of his contract and carries a $2 million base salary.

“Good defensive players are hard to find. If you can get one, then they have value, or if you have one, they have value,’’ said Belichick.

Belichick coached Burgess in the 2006 Pro Bowl, the second of Burgess’s two straight Pro Bowl nods as a Raider. Burgess (6 feet 2 inches, 260 pounds) has a reputation as a pass rusher, but the Patriots think he is more than one-dimensional.

“He’s not just a pass rusher,’’ said Belichick. “I think he’s a strong player. He’s not the biggest player, but he’s a very strong player for his size. He plays with good power. I think he’s a good player in the run game.

“I think he can rush the passer; he’s had a lot of production. He has primarily rushed off the left side. Normally you see a lot of pass-rush production off the right side than the left side, but he has been able to produce quite a bit from the left side. Those are some of the things that are unique to him. I’m not saying that’s exactly what is going to happen with us. We’ll have to wait and see how all that plays out.’’

The likely scenario is a combination of Pierre Woods and Burgess filling the vacancy at outside linebacker, opposite Adalius Thomas, that was created when the Patriots traded Mike Vrabel to Kansas City. Woods, 27, was the front-runner before Burgess was acquired, but Woods has just one career sack in three seasons.

Belichick praised Woods, who he said is very diligent and has shown improvement.

“He’s still a young player that’s continuing to get better, but he’s come a long way and it’s through his hard work and determination,’’ said Belichick. “He has good ability, but he’s worked very hard to get there in every area of the game. He’s probably one of the players on the team that probably has the most responsibilities of any player that we have, based on all the different roles that he’s involved with, including the kicking game. He’s got a lot to handle, but he’s worked hard at it and he’s improved at every single area.’’

Woods welcomed the addition of Burgess, saying he looked forward to the opportunity to pick Burgess’s brain.

“It’s good that the guy is on the team,’’ said Woods. “He’s coming in to help and that’s all that matters. We’re coming in here and we’re trying to work together and win games. That’s it.’’

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com.

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