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Patriots notebook

Defensive line is bolstered

Ellison, Favorite brought on board

VINCE WILFORK Sports Illustrated’s choice VINCE WILFORK
Sports Illustrated’s choice
By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / January 5, 2011

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The Patriots added depth to the defensive line yesterday with the signing of Atiyyah Ellison to the active roster.

Ellison, 6 feet 3 inches and 315 pounds, was originally selected by the Carolina Panthers in the third round of the 2005 draft out of Missouri. He lands in New England courtesy of the spot vacated by rookie defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick, who was placed on the reserve/suspended list by the Patriots Monday.

The Patriots also added defensive lineman Marlon Favorite to the practice squad yesterday.

The Patriots need all the help they can get on the defensive line, which has been weakened by injuries in the latter part of the season. On Monday, they placed Ron Brace on injured reserve with an elbow injury. Mike Wright missed the last six games with a concussion. Myron Pryor has been hampered by a back injury but managed to play in the season finale against Miami before an eye injury forced him to leave.

Ellison’s NFL journey has taken him to Houston, Baltimore, San Francisco, Jacksonville, and Kansas City. Most recently, he was waived by the Jaguars at the end of training camp and ended up on Kansas City’s active roster for a week before he was released Oct. 27.

Favorite, 6-1, 317, is in his second NFL season after spending 2009 on a few practice squads. He signed with Carolina in 2009 as a rookie free agent out of Louisiana State. He has rotated through eight teams, his most recent stop being Indianapolis, but he was released before the season began.

The rookie factor The Patriots recorded a 14-2 record with a number of rookies heavily contributing. But those 16 games can’t predict how they will respond in the playoffs, according to Rodney Harrison.

The NBC analyst and former Patriots safety said yesterday he could sense that Bill Belichick was using systems designed to help an inexperienced defense gain confidence. Even though the defensive unit has improved, Harrison said it is a vulnerable part of the Patriots.

“These playoffs are wide open because you have such a young defense and at times you see the immaturity in the Patriots secondary,’’ Harrison said. “I don’t care how good that offense is, that defense can get exploited.

“They’re going to have to mature and understand that a 14-2 year and what they did has nothing to do with what happens now. Can these young guys handle the playoff pressure? That’s the question.’’

Cover story Nose tackle Vince Wilfork is on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated. He is the first defensive tackle to be on the cover by himself since 2008, when Albert Haynesworth graced it. In this week’s issue, SI senior NFL writer Peter King writes that the Patriots look “like a better team than the 2007 team that entered the Super Bowl 18-0.’’ He goes on to predict the Patriots will beat the Green Bay Packers, 30-24, in the Super Bowl . . . A limited number of tickets for the Patriots divisional playoff game will go on sale to the public Friday at noon. The Patriots will host either Kansas City, Baltimore or the Jets at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 16. Tickets can be purchased at ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000. They will not be sold at the Gillette Stadium ticket office.

Being watched Plenty of fans tuned in to watch the Patriots this season. The Boston market registered an average 34.86 household rating, a regular-season record for the Patriots. It topped the record set during the Patriots’ undefeated run in 2007 of 33.6. In 15 of 16 games, 55 percent of televisions in Boston were tuned in to the Patriots. At a national level, the Patriots were part of two games that ranked in the top 25 for viewership: Patriots-Bears Dec. 12 and Patriots-Lions on Thanksgiving.

Williams weighs in Dolphins running back Ricky Williams took his frustrations with his team to the radio waves in Miami and dropped in a couple of tidbits about the Patriots at the same time.

A day after the Patriots defeated the Dolphins, 38-7, Williams ripped the Dolphins and praised the Patriots on 560-AM in Miami. His comments were transcribed by the Palm Beach Post.

“They had less to play for than we did . . . and they played harder than any team we played all year, and I just expect that from my team,’’ said Williams.

Williams went on to say that he is not angry with his teammates but, “I’m angry at the situation. That’s the coaches, myself, teammates, that’s everyone. That’s the whole environment that we have there, and I’m just frustrated that it’s not better.’’

Williams said he believed the Patriots foster a more positive environment than Miami, which can be seen in the success of linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who was cut by the Dolphins in 2008.

“It’s not based on him necessarily making plays, it’s just based on him buying into a winning tradition,’’ Williams said.

Greg A. Bedard of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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