Leading role suits Taylor
FOXBOROUGH - The Patriots might still be planning to go with a running back by committee, but Fred Taylor has established himself as the chairman of that committee following his 21-carry, 105-yard performance Sunday in a 26-10 win over the Falcons.
Taylor’s 21 carries were four more than he had in the first two games of the season combined. The 33-year-old joked yesterday that the Advil and Tylenol had worn off, but he said it’s fun to get into a groove on the ground like he did Sunday.
“Yeah, honestly,’’ Taylor said. “I think more importantly the win is always the best part of it, but as a running back you definitely want the carries, you want the touches, and I guess bottom line you want to be able to help the team win.’’
Taylor, the Patriots’ leading rusher on the season with 38 carries for 176 yards (4.6 yards per carry average), was asked whether he could handle 20 to 25 carries per game over the course of a season. Taylor averaged 14.9 carries a game in 2007, when he made the Pro Bowl, and 11 carries per game last season.
“Whatever it takes,’’ Taylor said. “Honestly, I’ve always said I just want to play until the wheels fall off, but I understand how long the season is and this is my 12th year. I understand how important it is to take care of your body - the maintenance, the massage, the chiropractor, acupuncture, whatever you need, you want to make sure you’re healthy by the next game. I understand all of that. Whether I can handle it or not, I’m prepared to. So we’ll just see how it goes as the season progresses.’’
Coach Bill Belichick bristled at being asked whether Taylor was capable of being a feature back over a season.
“Well, I don’t know the answer to that. We’ve only played three games,’’ Belichick said.
The Patriots, who haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Corey Dillon in 2004, when he had 1,635, have used a cooperative approach to the ground game the last few seasons, but Belichick doesn’t like to be put in a box. So, he redirected a question about whether he was philosophically averse to going with a feature back.
“Like when Corey Dillon ran for 1,600 yards? Would I be opposed to that? Yeah, I don’t think so,’’ he said.
Perhaps as insurance should Wilfork need to sit out a few games, the Patriots brought in defensive tackle Terdell Sands yesterday, clearing a roster spot by releasing linebacker Prescott Burgess, who was picked up in a trade with the Ravens last Tuesday.
The 6-foot-7-inch, 335-pound Sands worked out for the Patriots last week. The 29-year-old was released by the Raiders out of training camp, allowing Oakland to save $1.6 million. Sands had 29 tackles and two sacks last season for the Raiders, who signed him to a four-year, $17 million contract in 2007.
He first joined the NFL in 2001 as a seventh-round pick of the Chiefs but missed the ’01 season because of a foot injury. He spent the 2002 season on the practice squads of both Kansas City and Green Bay. He joined the Raiders in 2003.
By releasing Burgess, the Patriots save themselves a seventh-round pick - at least for now - since the pick was conditional upon Burgess being active for a certain number of games.
“I can’t create opportunities. I just have to take advantage of them when I can,’’ Gostkowski said. “Sure, there will be times when I won’t be kicking as many field goals; that’s fine as long as we’re winning. I could not care less how many field goals I get a game as long as the kicks I’m kicking I’m helping the team win and that was the case [Sunday]. I had to kick a couple of field goals, but we won, so it’s not that big of a deal.’’
Gostkowski has been perfect since he missed his first kick of the season.
“I went back and looked at it and everything looked exactly like I’ve been doing, so I didn’t change a thing,’’ Gostkowski said. “I just [chalked] it up as a bad mishit or something like that. You’ve got to have a plan of action and stick with it. Ride the wave when things are going good and when things are bad you’ve got to get back up.’’
Mayo has not participated in practice since the injury and a day after was seen on crutches.
Estimates on his return have been anywhere up to eight weeks.
Monique Walker of the Globe staff contributed to this report.