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Patriots Notebook

No downgrades, but no guarantees about who will play

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / January 3, 2010

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HOUSTON - Bill Belichick didn’t give many clues this week as to how he would handle the lineup for today’s game. With a playoff berth already clinched, it could be an ideal opportunity for a few players to rest.

Not much was revealed yesterday, as there were no downgrades to report. So the watch for who plays and who sits carries on. Earlier in the week, Tom Brady said he approached Belichick and declared he wanted to play. According to Brady, Belichick responded, “You’ll play. Don’t worry about that. You’ll be playing.’’

But for how long remains to be seen. Brady was listed on the practice/injury report Friday as probable. He continues to battle right shoulder/right finger/rib injuries but did have a full practice Friday. Wide receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker were both added to the report and listed as probable but the reason was not injury-related in either case. There were 10 players listed as probable.

The only Patriots listed as questionable were defensive linemen Ty Warren (ankle) and Vince Wilfork (foot). Both were limited at practice all week.

Resting didn’t seem like an option many players wanted to take. The Patriots are riding a three-game winning streak for the second time this season.

“If you can get a little rolling start with a little momentum on your side, it definitely helps us because it brings the team a lot closer,’’ running back Laurence Maroney said. “You know, it just gets everybody riled up, and getting in synch, and playing together.’’

While a playoff berth may be settled, the seedings are not. If the Patriots win, they will hold the No. 3 seed in the AFC. But if the Patriots lose and the Bengals beat the Jets, the Bengals will leap to the third spot and the Patriots would drop to fourth.

“To be honest, I’m not really even thinking about the playoffs,’’ safety Brandon Meriweather said. “It doesn’t really even matter. Nobody knows who is going to play who. Nobody knows who’s going to win on Sunday, so right now, all the focus is on the Houston Texans.’’

Shuffling the deck
As members of the offensive line continue to return from injury, today’s game will be a chance for a few different lineups to work together, Belichick said.

Among those expected to play is tackle Nick Kaczur, who was inactive against Buffalo and Jacksonville while rehabbing a shoulder injury. Kaczur fully participated in practices all week and is listed as probable.

“I think we’ll probably see a couple of different combinations in there this game,’’ Belichick said. “A couple of guys like hopefully Nick will be able to play this week. We’ll see. I’d definitely like to get him back in there some if he can play, and Dan [Connolly] and Stephen [Neal]. Mark [LeVoir]. We’ll see how it goes.’’

Morris ready to roll
Running back Sammy Morris has been with the Patriots since the spring of 2007, but an injury that season prevented him from participating in the playoffs, and they didn’t make it last season. Thus Morris has a chance for his first postseason action this season. He has played in 124 regular-season games. “The reason you play the game is to win championships,’’ Morris said. “To win championships, obviously, you have to get into the playoffs.’’

Game a building block
Linebacker Junior Seau did not play for four consecutive weeks after he came out of retirement in October. But he has been getting in more reps recently in a reserve role. He is chipping in on a defense that seems to be getting more consistent as the regular season comes to a close. “If we can just build on what we did last week, it can mean a lot of good things ahead for us,’’ Seau said. “But again, we’re just trying to position ourselves to go to Houston and win.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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