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Patriots notebook

Mallett hammering away at practice

Like Tom Brady (right) before him, Patriots rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett (left) has had no game situations, only practices, in which to improve his skills. Like Tom Brady (right) before him, Patriots rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett (left) has had no game situations, only practices, in which to improve his skills. (FILE/John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / November 26, 2011
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FOXBOROUGH - Rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett has been inactive for each of the Patriots’ 10 games, but coach Bill Belichick reported yesterday that the third-round pick from Arkansas is making progress.

He is “absolutely’’ still doing extra work after practice, Belichick said. During training camp, Mallett often spent time working on his footwork, either tethered to bungee cords or using a rope ladder, following instruction from strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash.

But he hasn’t been in any game situations since camp, and that’s where a quarterback can really develop.

“I think at that position, so much of it is about playing,’’ Belichick said. “Certainly from a mechanics standpoint, a physical standpoint, I think he’s made a lot of improvements, as [Tom] Brady did. Brady’s rookie year, he was like 205 or 207 [pounds]. He gained a lot of strength in both his upper and his lower body. That’s helped him, both in throwing and taking hits, durability, and all that. Ryan’s definitely gotten on that program. He spends a lot of time in the weight room and doing what we ask him to do.

“A lot of his job is working with the defense, but he gets the opportunity to work with some of our other receivers after practice. Also one of the good things about the backup quarterback is he’s always working against our defense . . . I think those reps are good too, because as a quarterback you make that competitive. You’re trying to complete a pass and execute a play against a defense that sort of knows it’s coming and they’re sort of geared to stop it, hopefully. That’s a competitive situation, too.’’

Belichick recalled his first year with the Giants, which was also quarterback Phil Simms’s rookie year, and the respect he gained for Simms, particularly his accuracy, while Simms ran the scout team against the Giants’ defense.

Belichick was quick to clarify that he wasn’t comparing Mallett to Simms, but he did note that Mallett has “made some impressive throws in practice.’’

Mallett was one of the most talked-about prospects in this year’s draft. Many believed he had first-round talent coming out of Arkansas, but there were character concerns that caused him to slide. He has had no such issues with the Patriots.

Questions abound

When the final injury report of the week came out yesterday, the Patriots listed three receivers - Deion Branch, Taylor Price, and Chad Ochocinco - as questionable for tomorrow’s game against the Eagles

Branch turned up on the report Thursday with a hip injury, while Price continues to deal with a hamstring issue.

A team source said Ochocinco (hamstring) did take part in practice yesterday, though he was not on the field when reporters were present for a 10-minute window that consisted of warm-ups and stretching.

Left tackle Matt Light (ankle), cornerback Devin McCourty (shoulder), and safety Patrick Chung (foot) are also among the 11 Patriots listed as questionable.

Linebackers Brandon Spikes (knee) and Dane Fletcher (thumb) are out. Neither practiced this week.

Guard Brian Waters and receiver Wes Welker, both of whom are nursing knee injuries, are probable.

Iffy propositions

The Eagles listed quarterback Michael Vick and cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as questionable.

However, reports out of Philadelphia yesterday make it sound as though none of the three will play. Vick, who suffered cracked ribs against Arizona two weeks ago, did not take any snaps this week, though he did do some throwing. Asomugha suffered a hyperextended left knee during practice Thursday, while Rodgers-Cromartie (ankle) was limited yesterday after not practicing Wednesday or Thursday.

The Eagles list tackle King Dunlap (concussion) as out and leading receiver Jeremy Maclin (hamstring/shoulder) is doubtful. Receiver/punt returner DeSean Jackson (foot) is probable.

Mankins fined

The NFL fined guard Logan Mankins $7,500 for a late hit in last Monday’s win over the Chiefs.

Mankins drew a flag in the fourth quarter when he shoved defensive end Amon Gordon to the ground at the end of a play on which Aaron Hernandez scored a touchdown. But New England was also flagged for an illegal shift, negating the score.

Mankins was flagged twice against Kansas City, giving him a team-high eight penalties this season.

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

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