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Patriots notebook

End justifies the means

Being productive is all that matters

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / December 29, 2010

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When it comes to playing for New England, the overriding belief is that it doesn’t matter how you came to be a member of the team — only that once you’re on the roster, you contribute.

So for Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio, the fact that a lot of their players were once street free agents, or the fact that 21 members of the 53-man roster were undrafted is just that: a fact.

“I don’t think we’re any different than any other team,’’ said Caserio, the Patriots director of player personnel. “The players that we bring into our program, the expectation is the same: Those players have come in, they’ve worked hard, they’ve had opportunities, and they’ve made the most of their opportunities since they’ve been here.

“In the end, it’s about the players going out there and performing, and a lot of it, too, is that the coaches do a good job of preparing those guys for the game.’’

BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, the team’s top two running backs, were undrafted; Mike Wright, who led the team in sacks before suffering a concussion, was as well. Rob Ninkovich floated between Miami and New Orleans before finding a home in New England.

And just a month ago, Eric Moore was playing in the UFL; he has started the last two games and has two sacks and 11 tackles in four games.

As with all players — draftees, rookie free agents, journeymen — sometimes there’s a good fit and other times it’s a mismatch and both sides move on.

“I think when you get to the final 53 cut, there’s certainly a significant pool of players out there that, for whatever reason, aren’t on a roster in Week 1 or Week 2 that are good players that end up playing in the league and end up contributing in the league,’’ said Belichick. “So part of that is opportunity and part of that is situation — what opportunities come up, but also what schemes and what situations those players come into — and then obviously what those players are able to do with those opportunities.

“I don’t know that there’s any formula or some kind of historical percentage. Each one’s kind of very unique on its own, based on all those circumstances I just mentioned. We’ve had some guys that have done a good job and we’ve had other guys that haven’t worked out as well. I’d say that’s kind of the way it usually is.

“Maybe a few more this year that have contributed than in the past. If players are able to take advantage of the opportunity, they can be productive in a system that they weren’t in at the beginning of the year.’’

Whether a player was a second-round pick a decade ago (like Matt Light) or signed just a week ago (like Landon Cohen), all the Patriots want is production.

Wendell toes the line One of the six Patriots who missed Sunday’s game in Buffalo because of injury was guard Dan Connolly (concussion). Reserve Ryan Wendell made his first start, and it sounds as though he graded out fairly well. “I think Wendy did some good things in the game,’’ said Belichick. “He had a couple of tough matchups there with [Marcus] Stroud and Kyle Williams and [Paul] Posluszny. Those are some good athletes and some good defensive players that everybody on the front had to block sooner or later along the line. Overall, I thought our offensive line as a group performed pretty well. We could do with a few less penalties, but overall I thought it performed pretty well.’’ Wendell, 24, a California native, has been with the Patriots since being signed as a rookie free agent in 2008. He spent that entire first season on the practice squad and much of last year there as well. He has been active for 14 of 15 games this season.

Sick daze With so many Patriots coming down with flulike symptoms in the last couple of weeks, the question of flu shots has come up. Asked yesterday whether the players had had them, Belichick didn’t give a yes or no answer. “Well, all that channels through our medical staff,’’ he said. “That’s not an expertise for me. As we all know, there’re a lot of different types of flu and I think that word kind of gets tossed around with a lot of different meanings. It could be anything from a 24-hour type of thing to obviously something a lot longer and more extensive than that. Bottom line is we’ve all had those kinds of things, especially at this time of year. What the exact diagnosis of it is and all that, I don’t really have a whole lot to add as far as the symptoms and the strand of it and so forth. But our medical staff takes care of it the best they can and the players have to do as much as they can to stay healthy at this time of year, and if something comes up, then our medical people try to address it.’’ So, for those of you who have wondered, there’s the response. Sort of.

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

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