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Patriots notebook

Graham steps in as kicker

Gostkowski may miss two weeks

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / November 10, 2010

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The Patriots seem to be preparing for life without their starting kicker, as they signed kicker Shayne Graham yesterday, according to a league source.

Coach Bill Belichick didn’t have an update on Stephen Gostkowski’s thigh injury suffered in Sunday’s 34-14 loss to Cleveland, but reports indicate Gostkowski could be out two weeks with a quad injury.

Without Gostkowski, the Patriots will look to Graham to fill in the gaps as the team prepares for the Steelers Sunday night.

Graham, 32, is making the rounds as an emergency replacement. The Giants signed him last month for a game against Detroit, and he converted four extra points. The Giants then released him.

Graham is in his 10th season and played most of his career with the Bengals, from 2003-09. The relationship with the Bengals ended after the 2009 season when Graham missed two field goals in a playoff loss to the Jets.

In his career, Graham has made 85.2 percent of his field goal attempts (196 of 230) and 280 of 283 extra points. In his last season with the Bengals, he converted 23 of 28 field goals (82.1 percent) and 28 of 29 PATs. His longest field goal is from 53 yards.

Change in snappers
The Patriots made another change in their special teams department, cutting long snapper Jake Ingram, according to a league source. In his place, the Patriots signed long snapper Matt Katula, according to XAM Sports Agencies.

Ingram, who is in his second season, struggled in recent weeks, his biggest challenge coming against the Chargers when he had a couple of botched snaps and picked up a penalty in the 23-20 victory. The miscues continued against Cleveland when Ingram launched a snap that skipped the surface before reaching punter Zoltan Mesko.

Ingram was a sixth-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2009.

Katula, 28, has played all six of his seasons with the Ravens, who cut him in August. Katula’s representatives, XAM, reported the signing via Twitter.

Chiming in on Big Ben
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has retained many of his strengths, according to Belichick, despite missing the first part of the season because of a suspension.

Roethlisberger has completed 63.3 percent of his attempts (69 of 109 for 917 yards) and has six touchdown passes.

“I think if you didn’t know the dates of the games and you just watched this year and watched games last year or the year before, you’d have a hard time saying, ‘Oh, this is ’08, this is ’09, this is ’10,’ ’’ said Belichick. “Ben looks like Ben.

“He has a great style of play. He’s a very physical guy — hard to tackle, hard to get down, makes a lot of big plays down the field, uses all his receivers.’’

The Steelers are 3-1 since Roethlisberger returned from an NFL-mandated four-game suspension and are 6-2 overall.

Ready and willing
If the Patriots needed Mesko to placekick in Cleveland, the rookie said, he was ready. Mesko hasn’t kicked since he was in high school in Ohio, but he was preparing himself once he realized Gostkowski may be unavailable.

“I was ready,’’ Mesko said. “I’m ready to do whatever the coaches want me to, so I’ll give it my best attempt.’’

The Patriots opted instead for receiver Wes Welker to kick an extra point and handle a kickoff after Gostkowski was injured. Mesko did have to adjust his holding techniques for Welker, who kicks with his left foot. Welker got the extra point and a little praise from Mesko. It was Welker’s first kick in a game since 2004.

“He wasn’t bad,’’ Mesko said.

Happy days
Patriots owner Robert Kraft said yesterday he is happy to have guard Logan Mankins back with the team. Mankins signed his restricted free agent tender offer last week and started against Cleveland.

After some controversy over the situation between Mankins and the team, it seems both sides have put it all behind them.

“You can’t always believe everything you read in the media,’’ said Kraft. “We’re really happy now, we just have to win football games. It’s about winning.’’

Kraft said he liked what he saw in Mankins’s performance Sunday but the result was not ideal.

“Obviously, he kept himself in good shape, but losing isn’t fun,’’ said Kraft. “So it was not a good day on Sunday.’’

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

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