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Patriots notebook

O’Brien calls Moss disagreement normal

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / October 20, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — Yesterday, Patriots quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien didn’t deny reports that he and Randy Moss had a disagreement in the weeks before the receiver was traded to Minnesota.

In his first interview since the trade, O’Brien wasn’t eager to discuss specific incidents, but said that as far as he is concerned, there isn’t anything unusual about a player voicing his opinion about something related to football.

“That was three weeks ago,’’ O’Brien said. “I’d say I’ve been coaching for upwards of 20 years, and that’s what we do. We coach, and the players have input into what we’re coaching. Things like that are going to happen.

“Randy and I had a great relationship. I really enjoyed coaching him, and obviously, he’s moved on to Minnesota and we’re moving on to San Diego, but I wish him the best. But coaching, something like that happens, that’s coaching football. It’s a tough sport, and that’s the way it is.’’

Without Moss in the lineup, the Patriots didn’t appear to miss a step Sunday. Deion Branch stepped in with a team-high nine receptions for 98 yards and one touchdown in the 23-20 overtime win against the Baltimore Ravens.

Tom Brady completed passes to six different receivers and targeted eight.

Just because Moss left didn’t mean the Patriots had to start over with a new offensive plan, O’Brien said.

“Each player has his own strengths,’’ O’Brien said. “So when Randy was here, there were certain things that, yes, we did with him that maybe Wes Welker doesn’t do, obviously.

“At the same time, there are some things that we can still do regardless of who’s here. It’s just ingrained in the system of what we do and how we work.

“It’s just like anything else. Whether it was injury or trade or whatever, the next guy steps up into that role and we see the skill set that he has and we try to put it to use out on the field for that opponent.’’

Sobering reminder
There has been plenty of discussion about player safety the last two days. And rookie cornerback Devin McCourty can appreciate the elevated concern.

Last weekend, McCourty’s former teammate at Rutgers, Eric LeGrand, was paralyzed from the neck down after a special teams tackle in a game against Army.

McCourty said he hasn’t had a chance to speak to LeGrand, but has been in touch with his friends and other former teammates and is getting frequent updates about the defensive lineman’s condition.

“It’s a tough situation,’’ McCourty said. “You hear about that every once in a while but you never really think about it being someone you know. Eric is a friend of mine. It’s a tough time, but everyone is praying for him and hoping he keeps getting better and better.’’

While LeGrand’s injury was not the result of a helmet-to-helmet hit, it is an example of how quickly the sport can become dangerous, McCourty said.

“Football is a violent game,’’ he said, “and I watched the play where Eric got hurt and that play has probably happened so many different times in high school, college, and pros, and you just don’t know what hit is going to be the difference in an injury like that, but it’s football and it’s a game we all choose to play.’’

Status quo on roster
The Patriots didn’t have an itch to make any more moves before the trade deadline passed yesterday. For a team that made two significant trades in the first weeks of the season, there didn’t seem to be much else left. On Sept. 14, the Patriots traded running back Laurence Maroney to Denver. Then on Oct. 6, they dealt Moss to Minnesota.

“I think we’ve taken care of that over the past few weeks, haven’t we?’’ said Nick Caserio, the director of player personnel. “I would say this time of the year it’s status quo.’’

So the Patriots stuck with their current roster and retained the rights to offensive lineman Logan Mankins, who has yet to sign his tender offer. Mankins is expected to sign the offer and report to the Patriots before Nov. 16 so that he can accrue another year of service and become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

The Patriots did make a roster move yesterday, bringing back safety Ross Ventrone as a member of the practice squad. Ventrone was released as part of the final cuts Sept. 4 to get the roster down to 53 players.

Ventrone, who is 5 feet 8 inches and 190 pounds, was signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Villanova in April.

In their thoughts
The trouble surrounding retired Patriots linebacker Junior Seau prompted well wishes from Patriots owner Robert Kraft and linebacker Jerod Mayo yesterday.

Seau was released from a California hospital yesterday with minor injuries after police said he fell asleep and drove off a cliff in Carlsbad, Calif. The accident occurred hours after Seau had been arrested Sunday night for a domestic violence incident at the home he shares with his girlfriend. Seau was released from custody and hours later was in the accident. Police said neither drugs nor alcohol appeared to be involved.

“Junior’s a great guy, a great teammate,’’ Mayo said. “I’m not sure what happened, but I wish him the best and I wish him well.’’

Said Kraft, “He’s a good guy, real good guy. I don’t know what the facts are, but I have great affection for him. I always take people as I know them or what I see. I’ve learned not to be judgmental until I have all the facts.’’

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

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