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Patriots notebook

Moss’s absence is not a concern

He misses practice unrelated to injury

By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / January 9, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH - Wide receiver Randy Moss provided a small scare late yesterday morning when he missed practice for the first time this week, a concern that dissipated in the afternoon when coach Bill Belichick said Moss had missed practice for reasons unrelated to injury.

Moss had been spotted hobbling out of the Patriots’ locker room Thursday, and on Wednesday he wrapped ice around his knees.

Moss had not appeared on the injury report all week, and on the final report the Patriots listed him as probable with his ailment specified as “non-injury related.’’ The Patriots typically allow Moss to miss practice on Wednesdays, but Moss attended Wednesday’s practice this week and missed yesterday’s.

Moss’s apparent health serves as significant relief given his importance Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. Without Wes Welker, Moss will likely fall under even closer scrutiny from the secondary than the routine double teams he faces each week.

Twice this season Moss operated without Welker in the lineup. In Week 2 against the Jets, Moss, covered mainly by potential Defensive Player of the Year Darrelle Revis, caught four passes for 24 yards. The next week against the Falcons, he caught 10 passes for 116 yards.

Although Welker’s absence makes Moss’s job more difficult, it won’t change his job description. Welker’s primary replacement, Julian Edelman, is able to run the plays and formations the same as Welker (just not as good, of course). Moss will still be able to line up in different spots, which makes it more difficult for defenses to key on him.

“We move them around,’’ Belichick said. “We move Randy around. That means somebody else has to move around, too. Depending on the play or the call, there’s always an element of that.’’

Yesterday, Moss moved into Welker’s spot on the AFC Pro Bowl roster, the seventh time he has been selected. Safety Brandon Meriweather was tapped for the first time, a replacement for Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd. The Pro Bowl will be played Jan. 31 at Dolphin Stadium.

Tackle eligibles
If the Patriots had not traded draft picks with the Ravens in April, rookie right tackle Michael Oher might have played for the Patriots and not the Ravens. The Patriots traded down out of the 23d pick, which the Ravens used to draft Oher.

“As we saw the board coming out, he was one of the players dropping to our pick,’’ Belichick said. “He was certainly a guy that we were considering, but at the same time, we felt like this was a player that there were going to be other teams looking for. Baltimore was a good fit there.’’

The Patriots drafted their own standout tackle, taking Sebastian Vollmer in the second round out of Houston. Oher and Vollmer were perhaps the NFL’s two best rookie offensive linemen. They played both tackle spots when injuries befell their teams, demonstrating uncommon versatility. Belichick considers them similar players.

Oher is certainly the most famous rookie lineman. His life story became the basis of the “The Blind Side.’’ Belichick had seen parts of the movie.

“I thought it was interesting,’’ he said.

Fined and dandy
The amount James Sanders was fined for his hit on David Anderson last Sunday was $7,500, according to a league source. Sanders drew an unnecessary roughness penalty, and the fine came because, according to the source, “he unnecessarily struck a defenseless receiver.’’

Anderson did not return to the game, becoming the second player Sanders had knocked out in two weeks. In Week 16, Sanders blasted Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis, who left the game with a head injury.

“Those are the kind of hits that, as a coach, you like your guys in the secondary to give,’’ Belichick said. “Make those receivers and tight ends or whoever it is catching the ball feel those hits coming inside, and make them a little more hesitant. You don’t want those receivers feeling real comfortable coming across the middle. You want them to have that respect for getting knocked around, and James brings that.’’

Sanders did not seem affected by the fine. “Part of the game,’’ he said.

Butler did it
Darius Butler culminated his rookie season last Sunday with his biggest play, a 91-yard interception return for a touchdown. This week, he will likely play his first playoff game against his cousin, Ravens running back Willis McGahee, whom he faced when the teams met in Week 4.

“I’m sure there will be a lot more intensity in this game,’’ Butler said. “Once I found out who we were playing, I just told him good luck and congratulated him on the last game. We’re looking forward to playing other.’’

“It’s going to be pretty cool,’’ McGahee said. “Darius is a good kid. I’m going to wish him luck, but not that much luck, because we got to go there and play those guys. The thing is: Good luck. That’s the playoff advice right there.’’

On Sunday, McGahee and Butler could find themselves running at one another, McGahee with the ball and Butler ready to tackle him. Could McGahee’s younger cousin tackle him?

“If it’s one on one?’’ McGahee said. “No.’’

No doubts
The Patriots listed no players as out or doubtful on the injury report, and only reserve offensive lineman Dan Connolly (ankle), who has an ankle injury, is questionable. Tom Brady (right finger/right shoulder/rib), Edelman (forearm), Jarvis Green (knee), Nick Kaczur (shoulder), Moss (non-injury related), Shawn Springs (knee), Ty Warren (ankle), Benjamin Watson (knee), and Vince Wilfork (foot) are probable - although Wilfork seems to be feeling better than probable. Yesterday afternoon, he sent a Tweet that read, “alright everyone ready for this weekend . . . cant wait till Sunday.’’ . . . Belichick caught some of Alabama’s national championship victory over Texas and offered congratulations to Tide coach Nick Saban, a close friend. “It’s a great win for Nick and the Alabama program,’’ Belichick said. “He’s a great coach. He’s as good as anybody I’ve ever worked with. I learned an awful lot from him.’’

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