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Patriots notebook

Kraft has own reasons to be happy

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / December 15, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — He doesn’t know how this season will end, but Patriots owner Robert Kraft senses something special about this year’s team.

“They just look like kids out there having a good time,’’ Kraft said last night. “There’s a karma and a chemistry with this team — it’s pretty special. And you can feel it when you walk in the locker room, both before the game and after the game.

“I think what’s evolved over the last seven, eight games is there’s a sense of confidence and . . . the locker room is a very positive atmosphere and it’s a nuance that’s hard to understand if you don’t see it all the time.

“It’s a very upbeat kind of feeling, there’s a camaraderie, and you see how new people come in and they can integrate very quickly into the system because it is so inviting.’’

Asked if that feeling was missing from last year’s team, Kraft said, “I think so, yes. From my point of view it was not the same last year.’’

Speaking at the Patriots Charitable Foundation’s annual holiday party for kids, Kraft called it “pretty cool’’ for his team to be in the playoffs for the 12th time in his 17 seasons of ownership and expressed a desire to lock up home-field advantage this weekend so fans can have a postseason game at Gillette Stadium.

He also is hoping for a different result from the Patriots’ last playoff game, a drubbing at the hands of the Ravens.

“I personally haven’t forgotten that,’’ Kraft said. “That was one of the most difficult games since we’ve owned the team. It was a total beating.

“That game, in the first 5-7 minutes, it’s not what our team is about. I hope we have a chance to permanently erase that feeling once the playoffs come around this year.’’

Kraft marvels at the performances by quarterback Tom Brady in recent weeks.

“He is such an outstanding leader,’’ Kraft said. “It’s just amazing. You know, I listen to some of these analysts, who were great quarterbacks in their own right, and [they are] talking about how Tommy is performing. The real brilliance there in my estimation is the way he can read defenses, and see where opportunities are, and then for the main part, put the ball in places where only our receivers can catch it.’’

Kraft was joined at last night’s event by 11 current players; however, cornerback Devin McCourty, whom the team had said would take part, was not spotted. It is possible McCourty, who left Sunday’s game with a rib injury (though it is not believed to be serious), did not attend so he wouldn’t be asked about his injury.

Leonard is signed The Patriots have agreed to terms with defensive lineman Louis Leonard, according to a league source.

The 26-year old California native is 6 feet 4 inches, 330 pounds, and spent the last year-plus with Carolina, where he struggled with injuries.

Traded to the Panthers by Cleveland before the 2009 season to shore up a line hit by injuries, Leonard played in two games before being placed on injured reserve with a broken ankle.

Leonard began this season with the Panthers and played two of the first three games, missing the second because of an elbow issue. He was released Sept. 28.

Signed by the Chargers as an undrafted rookie out of Fresno State in 2007, Leonard was cut by San Diego and the Rams before playing four games with Cleveland that year. In 2008, he played in all 16 games for the Browns.

The Patriots did not announce the signing because they had not yet made a corresponding roster move. With no evidence that defensive end Mike Wright is ready to return from the concussion he suffered against the Colts, he could be headed to IR; defensive lineman Myron Pryor (back) has missed the last few games, and defensive lineman Ron Brace left Sunday’s game with a head injury, making them candidates for a roster move as well.

More to story New England added another defensive lineman, Eric Moore, last week, and Moore had a strip-sack and four tackles against Chicago.

Another former Carolina lineman, Moore played this season with the Florida Tuskers of the UFL before signing with the Patriots.

Director of player personnel Nick Caserio gave a snapshot of how Moore came to be a Patriot during his weekly conference call.

“He was somebody that you talk about during the preseason scouting process and some of those players on other clubs that you evaluate who may or may not make the roster,’’ Caserio said. “He was a player that our department had done work on, along with a number of other players. He was productive during the preseason for Carolina. He didn’t make their roster.

“We actually visited him in September — he just didn’t happen to work out at that time. And then he went ahead and took the initiative and wanted to keep on playing. He went down to the UFL and played for the Florida team. When their season was over, we were able to get some things worked out, brought him back in, worked him out, and then we made a decision to sign him.’’

Caserio noted Moore’s pass rushing ability but didn’t specify whether he would be more of an outside linebacker or defensive end in the Patriots’ system, saying roles are determined on a week-to-week basis.

Action by Jackson Caserio said of recently signed cornerback Chevis Jackson, “He has a bit of position versatility. He’s played on the perimeter. He played the ‘star’ [slot] for Atlanta when he was there. He’s got good size, he’s a pretty instinctive player, he’s got good ball skills. He tackles.’’

Drafted in the third round out of Louisiana State by the Falcons in 2008, he was released during final cuts. He was a member of general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s first draft class in Atlanta.

Jackson was signed because Jonathan Wilhite has missed time because of a hip injury, but Jackson was inactive against the Bears.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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