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Patriots notebook

Cunningham goes on IR; Chung to sit again

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / December 11, 2011
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GREENBELT, Md. - It had been three days since the Patriots made a roster move, so they made up for it yesterday with four transactions, placing linebacker/defensive end Jermaine Cunningham on season-ending injured reserve, releasing defensive back Sterling Moore, signing defensive end Eric Moore, and promoting rookie cornerback Malcolm Williams off the practice squad.

In addition, New England downgraded four players to out for today’s game at Washington: safety Patrick Chung (foot), center Dan Connolly (groin), linebacker Brandon Spikes (knee), and running back Shane Vereen (hamstring).

Chung will miss his fifth game with a right foot injury. He has been practicing for three weeks and was expected to return to the lineup today.

Connolly will miss his third game, and Spikes, who returned to practice Thursday after his MCL injury, will miss his fifth. This will be the sixth game Vereen has not suited up for in his rookie season.

The end of Cunningham’s disappointing second season came after he appeared on the injury report for the first time this season on Friday. He was listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury, and it is believed he was hurt during practice that day.

Cunningham has made little impact with the Patriots, particularly this season. After playing 15 games (11 starts) last year, he appeared in just eight this season, totaling just 48 defensive snaps (16 came against the Raiders Oct. 2).

Replacing Cunningham with Eric Moore was a bit of a surprise, though it was a surprise Moore lasted on the team until the final cutdown day Sept. 3. The 30-year-old was originally signed last Dec. 3 and started four of the team’s final five games, including the playoff game with the Jets. He accumulated 15 tackles and two sacks.

Moore spent some time this fall with the Virginia Destroyers of the United Football League.

It is believed that the Patriots considered promoting rookie Markell Carter off the practice squad, but the linebacker isn’t ready to make that jump.

Williams was a seventh-round draft pick this year out of Texas Christian, where he played mostly on special teams.

It’s been a roller coaster season for Sterling Moore, an undrafted rookie. After being released from the Raiders’ practice squad, he was signed to the Patriots’ practice squad, promoted 10 days later, cut and re-signed to the practice squad, and then promoted again, starting against the Jets Nov. 13. He also started at safety against the Chiefs and Eagles.

Yesterday’s moves bring the total number of Patriots transactions since Sept. 1 to 140; last year at this point, the team had made 79. This year’s number is slightly inflated because of the 90-man training camp roster, but it’s still high. For comparison, the Jets have made 108 transactions since Sept. 1, the Dolphins 96, and the Bills 93.

A fit in any era

Wes Welker leads the league with 93 catches. He could soon become just the third player to record four seasons of 100, joining Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison.

On Friday, coach Bill Belichick discussed changes in the game such as the development of the nickel defense in the 1980s and teams introducing three-receiver sets. He was asked how Welker, now the model for slot receivers, would have been used years ago.

“He’d have fit in as a perimeter receiver, like all the guys [I] watched growing up,’’ Belichick said. “I think every receiver, every good receiver, has something that is exceptional, that is hard to cover - either his size, his speed, or his great technique and quickness. You have to be able to get open somehow.’’

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

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