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Patriots notebook

Very sharp corners

Brady wary of Eagles' talent

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / November 24, 2011
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FOXBOROUGH - Asante Samuel declined interview requests from the New England media yesterday. It seems the former Patriots cornerback, in his fourth season in Philadelphia, prefers to do his talking on the field Sunday against his former team.

But that didn’t preclude Tom Brady from discussing Samuel’s impact in the Eagles’ talent-laden secondary, which this season was bolstered by the free agent acquisitions of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

“He makes a lot of plays and he always has made a lot of plays,’’ Brady said of Samuel, who leads the NFL with 38 interceptions since 2006. “He’s a great player and I loved playing against him because I thought he really brought the best out in our receivers and our passing game.

“He’s always a threat to intercept the ball. As a quarterback, you’re always paying attention to those guys. He does it as well as anybody that I’ve ever played against.’’

Asked if Philadelphia’s cornerbacks compared with anyone the Patriots faced in the AFC, Brady replied, “We play some pretty good corners. This is another group.

“They’re experienced, they’re fast, they intercept the ball, they’re looking for interceptions. They’re real playmakers on that defense.’’

Special honor

Julian Edelman was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for returning a third-quarter punt against the Chiefs 72 yards for a touchdown. It was the second punt return for a touchdown in his career. He set a franchise record with a 94-yard return against the Dolphins Jan. 2, 2011.

Edelman, who also factored on defense in the dime package vs. the Chiefs, became the fourth Patriot with two or more punt returns for scores, joining Troy Brown (3), Irving Fryar (2), and Mike Haynes (2).

Asked if he was concerned about losing Edelman to the defense for the balance of the season, Brady said, “It wouldn’t be the first we lost over there,’’ no doubt a reference to Brown, who also moonlighted as a defensive back.

“Once those guys start playing well, coach [Bill] Belichick likes to keep them over there on defense. Julian has a lot of different talents to help this team - a great punt return the other night and obviously he helps us on offense when he’s out there, but when they’re thin on defense, he can go over there and do that, too.’’

It was the first Special Teams honor for a Patriot since offensive lineman Dan Connolly was recognized for his 71-yard kickoff return against Green Bay Dec. 19, 2010.

Hard to contain

The Eagles are likely to counter Edelman on punt returns with their own dangerous specialist, DeSean Jackson, who made NFL history when he became the first player to garner Pro Bowl spots at two positions - wide receiver and punt returner - in 2009.

“He’s a very special talent,’’ said Patriots receiver/special teamer Matthew Slater. “There’s not a lot of guys like him in this league, and he can change the game in one play, so we’re very well aware of that.’

Jackson is the first player in NFL history to accumulate 3,500 receiving yards and 1,000 punt-return yards in his first four seasons.

“We know we have a lot to do as far as preparation is concerned,’’ said Slater. “We know we have to have a sense of urgency when dealing with a guy like this.

“I’ve been dealing with him since college,’’ said Slater, a UCLA alum who faced Jackson, then a standout at Cal. “So I’ve seen him at the college level and the pro level and he’s gotten the better of me a couple of times. So hopefully we can go out there and be ready for him come Sunday.’’

Vollmer’s vote

Patriots offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer was given the opportunity to tell Heisman Trophy voters why Houston quarterback Case Keenum deserved consideration. “Whatever record you want to pull out, it seems like he has it,’’ said Vollmer, who didn’t mind showing his bias as a former Houston player. “Obviously, from what I’ve been able to watch - which isn’t a lot - he’s been able to do an incredible job. I mean, he’s putting up points, he’s throwing the ball left and right, and he’s had 17,000-whatever yards passing. He’s done such a good job of just being a leader and getting the right play called, getting the team out of a bad play and into the right play and really managing the game.’’ . . . After he departed the locker room following Monday night’s victory with a boot on his right leg, tackle Matt Light was spotted yesterday in the locker room without it. Light was one of 11 players who were limited in practice. The others were: safety Patrick Chung (foot), linebacker Gary Guyton (shoulder), safety James Ihedigbo (shoulder), cornerback Devin McCourty (shoulder), wide receivers Taylor Price (hamstring), Wes Welker (knee), and Slater (shoulder), offensive guard Brian Waters (knee), Vollmer (back), and Connolly (groin). Linebackers Dane Fletcher (thumb), Brandon Spikes (knee), and Jeff Tarpinian (illness) did not practice indoors with the rest of the team at the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse . . . The Patriots re-signed offensive lineman Donald Thomas, who had been released before Monday’s game, signed defensive back Josh Victorian to the practice squad, and released (yet again) safety Ross Ventrone. Since the first day he signed with the Patriots April 29, 2010, Ventrone has been involved in 23 transactions, including 18 in the last two months.

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