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Patriots notebook

Teams tackle ‘Brady Rule’

By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / August 21, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - Last night’s exhibition game against the Cincinnati Bengals marked the first time the home fans saw Tom Brady play in a game since he suffered his season-ending injury just 15 snaps into the team’s 2008 season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. Brady received a loud ovation when he took the field on the Patriots’ first possession.

The last time the Foxborough Faithful saw Brady in a game at Gillette Stadium - last Sept. 7 - he was on the turf in agony after Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard plowed into his left leg, tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his knee.

The NFL took steps in the offseason, through its competition committee, to try to legislate hits like Pollard’s out of the game. NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira was in attendance last night.

Before the game Pereira was asked about the early returns on the “Brady Rule,’’ which is actually just a clarification of the existing rule on illegal hits on the quarterback, prohibiting a defender on the ground who hasn’t been blocked or fouled directly into the quarterback from lunging or diving at the quarterback’s lower legs. Pereira said he has seen the amended rule in action already this preseason.

“Not the same type of action that happened in the Brady play, not the lunge, this was more of a roll into the quarterback and that concerns me,’’ said Pereira.

“All the committee has to do is see the type of injury that Brady got and, whether it’s Brady or any other quarterback in this league, we want to keep them in the game. It’s important that we have our quarterbacks in the game.

“We didn’t change the rule, per se, but we just put a little more meat into it so we could cover the guy who goes to the ground and say if you’re going to lunge at him that’s fine you can do it, but you got to wrap or swipe with the arm and not get him with the shoulder or the helmet and put him in danger when he’s really so vulnerable, which he is in the passing position.’’

Some Bengals fans wonder why the rule was not amended after Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer, who did not play last night because of a high ankle sprain, suffered torn ligaments in his left knee in a 2005 AFC playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on a low hit by Kimo von Oelhoffen.

“I think it’s a different play,’’ said Pereira. “Carson’s play, [the defender] is coming directly off a block into that contact and the play with Brady is a different play where he was blocked to the ground and then lunged at the quarterback.’’

Picking on Wheatley
It was a rough night for second-year cornerback Terrence Wheatley, who was beaten on the Bengals’ lone touchdown, a 24-yard strike to Chris Henry in the second quarter that came on fourth and 17. Two plays earlier, Wheatley had given up an apparent touchdown to Jerome Simpson that was called back for offensive pass interference.

The touchdown play that counted bothered him.

“Good play by him, crappy play by me,’’ said Wheatley. “That was something that shouldn’t happen, but you live and you learn.’’

The Bengals picked on Wheatley on that drive, which started with him allowing a 14-yard completion to Henry. He also allowed a 13-yarder to Henry later in the drive on third and 7.

The lone bright spot for Wheatley was that he was Johnny-on-the-spot to pick up a second-quarter fumble by Cincinnati tight end Daniel Coats that was forced by Brandon McGowan.

“I’ve got to get better than that,’’ said Wheatley. “That was not good. That’d be like a D-minus or an F in terms of grade-wise.

“But I’ll look at the film tomorrow and figure it out and get right back to work.’’

Fresh look
After all the talk of using the 4-3 defense after last week’s game, when the Patriots used 4-3 fronts almost exclusively, they opened last night in a 3-4 with Adalius Thomas getting the start at left outside linebacker and Pierre Woods on the right side.

The Patriots later switched to 4-3 looks, some of which featured Derrick Burgess and Tully Banta-Cain as rush ends.

The Patriots ended up with four sacks and the first team has not allowed a touchdown in nine drives during the preseason.

Welker returns
Wes Welker, who was in street clothes for the Eagles game, also drew the start last night. He had a 32-yard gain on a wide receiver screen on the Patriots’ opening possession. It was his only reception of the night . . . Cornerback Shawn Springs made his Patriots debut. It was a largely uneventful night for the veteran, who played strictly on the outside at corner . . . Rookie Darius Butler got the start at left cornerback and had five tackles. In the first half, Butler was credited with a half-sack on a blitz and closed quickly to bat away a pass intended for Andre Caldwell, the younger brother of former Patriots receiver Reche Caldwell . . . Linebacker Tedy Bruschi also saw his first action of the preseason. Of note was the fact that Bruschi was not the inside linebacker next to Jerod Mayo in the team’s starting 3-4. That was Gary Guyton.

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