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Patriots notebook

Two more make Pro Bowl

Welker and Light added as injury replacements

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By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / January 6, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH — A week after the Patriots placed three starters and three reserves on the AFC Pro Bowl squad, tackle Matt Light and wide receiver Wes Welker were added as reserves yesterday for the Jan. 30 game in Honolulu.

Light will replace Miami’s Jake Long and Welker Houston’s Andre Johnson, both of whom are injured.

Quarterback Tom Brady, left guard Logan Mankins, and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork were named starters last week, while safety Brandon Meriweather, linebacker Jerod Mayo, and rookie cornerback Devon McCourty were listed as reserves.

It is the third Pro Bowl selection for Light, who started all 16 games this season and was picked in 2006 and ’07, as well as for Welker, who was selected for the third consecutive year.

Welker, who had team highs of 86 receptions and 848 receiving yards with seven touchdowns, last week was named the team’s honoree for the Ed Block Courage Award in recognition of his recovery from a catastrophic knee injury suffered in the 2009 regular-season finale in Houston.

“Wes plays as big with the biggest heart as anybody out there, and I think that’s what really makes him special and really what separates him from every other player out on the field,’’ Brady said last week. “There’s nobody that’s going to play with as much energy and as much excitement and as much consistency as Wes.’’

Bye, but not off While some would suggest that the Patriots, as the top-seeded team in the AFC, would have an edge because of the first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, Brady would suggest otherwise. The reason? He knows the opponent — the Chiefs, Ravens, or Jets — will have the advantage of having won a playoff game.

Hence, there was no rest for the weary, with the team practicing in full pads yesterday on the lower field behind Gillette Stadium.

“Well, there certainly is a lot to fix,’’ Brady said before taking the field. “I don’t want to sit here and tell you all of the things that we’re working on, but there are plenty of things that we need to figure out — ways to do things better.

“Certain guys haven’t been out there in a few weeks, so a guy like Aaron [Hernandez] and Deion [Branch], hopefully they can get out there to practice and make some improvements.’’

Hernandez was not present during the media-access portion of practice, and neither were Mike Wright, Jermaine Cunningham, and Eric Moore. Rookie linebacker Brandon Spikes, who completed his four-game suspension for using a banned substance, was present for the team’s first practice of the week.

Offensive lineman Dan Connolly took another step in his recovery from a concussion suffered against Green Bay by returning to practice. He was spotted in a red non-contact jersey, as were Danny Woodhead and Dan Koppen.

“There are teams that are practicing that do have games this weekend,’’ Brady said. “And the team that we play is going to win a playoff game this weekend and they’re going to have made improvements and I sure hope we can make improvements, too.’’

Murrell re-signed The mystery behind the player wearing No. 53 in practice was solved when the team announced it had signed Marques Murrell, a linebacker out of Appalachian State who originally signed as a rookie free agent with the Eagles in 2007. It is Murrell’s second tour of duty with the Patriots. He played in this season’s opener against Cincinnati before being released Sept. 13 . . . Coach Bill Belichick was mum on the reason the team suspended rookie defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick, saying, “Whatever is between the player and the team is between the player and the team.’’ . . . Atiyyah Ellison, who was signed to fill Deaderick’s roster spot, participated in his first practice. Evidently, Ellison’s presence on the roster comes at no cost to the team. “This week is a bye week, so I’m not getting paid for this week,’’ said the 6-foot-3-inch, 318-pound defensive lineman out of Missouri. “It’s not really about money at this point. “It’s about fitting in and getting on with somebody. That’s really my long-term goal, just to stick somewhere.’’

Monique Walker of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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