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Patriots notebook

Woods a keeper after all

LB is back with team that cut him

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By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / November 18, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — On Sept. 4, linebacker Pierre Woods lost his job.

Woods was among a handful of players who didn’t make the final cut when the Patriots whittled their roster to 53. He began his career with the Patriots as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Michigan in 2006. Then after four seasons, he was released.

Woods was out of work, but instead of waiting for a team to bring him back to the NFL, he got a job at the University of Michigan as a groundskeeper.

Yesterday, Woods got his old job back. The Patriots signed him to replace linebacker Shawn Crable, who was released Tuesday.

“Feels great to be back,’’ Woods said. “Feels real good to be back. I’m real excited. Been in Michigan, working and working out. To be back is a blessing. Ready to go.’’

Woods, 28, was battling for a job at outside linebacker in camp. After being cut, he had one workout with the Chiefs.

For the next couple of months, Woods said, he worked out twice a day just in case a team was interested.

“You’ve got to be ready,’’ Woods said. “Take care of your body, eat right, that’s what I’ve been doing. The guys at Michigan have been taking care of me, so big ups to those guys out there.’’

While Woods was working at Michigan, he kept in touch with former Patriots teammates but didn’t watch much football.

In the meantime, Bill Belichick kept in touch with Woods, and after jettisoning Crable, he believed Woods could help the Patriots.

“We’ve been in contact with, like, a lot of players that we’ve had a long history with,’’ Belichick said. “I think we have a pretty good idea where he is.’’

Once the Patriots called, Woods’s reaction was predictable.

“Excited,’’ he said. “I mean, how would you be? You lose your job, and someone calls you, how you gonna feel? You’re gonna be pumped, so that’s how I was.’’

Being away from football wasn’t something Woods needed to stay humble or remind him of his blessings. His only goal was to stay positive and not think his career was over.

“Man, you just don’t think like that,’’ Woods said. “You’ve got to stay positive. I have positive people around me, people that’s real, that’s been real.

“Once you stop playing, there’s a lot of people that stop calling. The people that stopped calling, I know who they are. You know, I’m not going to trip. I know it’s a blessing to be back and I’m ready to work.’’

Sanders saluted Safety James Sanders made a game-changing play against the Steelers Sunday and ended up the AFC’s Defensive Player of the Week. Sanders intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass in the fourth quarter and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown, giving the Patriots a 29-10 lead.

Sanders also had four tackles, including an early hit on Hines Ward that knocked the receiver out of the game.

“James played his heart out,’’ said Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington. “He was very physical, made a lot of plays on the ball and on the ball carriers.

“That touchdown was huge as well. I think it ended up making the difference.’’

“James has been a key guy for us for a number of years,’’ Belichick said. “Even at the beginning of the season, all our safeties were playing, we had a lot of guys rotating in, going all the way back to [Bret] Lockett in training camp. I feel like we have confidence in all of them. All of them were contributing.

“James is, as usual, one of our most professional, well-prepared players. He works really hard every week. He’s always one you can count on to be on top of everything you ask him to do, whether it’s kickoff return, the punt team, kickoff coverage, nickel defense, goal line.’’

Memorable meeting Of the 11 times Tom Brady has faced the Colts, the first one stands out. In September 2001, Brady made his first NFL start against the Colts. He led the Patriots to a 44-13 win at Foxboro Stadium, completing 13 of 23 passes for 168 yards. “That was the old stadium,’’ Brady said. “You’ll never forget the first time you started a game in the NFL. I remember meeting Peyton [Manning] before the game. I was surprised he knew me, as a matter of fact. He said, ‘Hi Tom. I’m Peyton,’ as he was out there warming up, which I thought was pretty cool.’’

Dipping his toe in Running back Fred Taylor continues to ease his way back into the rotation, as he was limited at practice. Taylor, who has been battling turf toe, returned to practice last week for the first time since injuring himself in Week 3. Offensive lineman Stephen Neal, who was inactive Sunday with a shoulder injury, also was limited, along with cornerback Jonathan Wilhite (hip). Defensive lineman Myron Pryor (back) and safety Jarrad Page (calf) did not practice.

Shalise Manza Young of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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