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Belichick lauds Wendell, readying rookies for first NFL game

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff  September 5, 2012 02:34 PM

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The Patriots are fully entrenched in their preparations for the season opener against Tennessee, and before heading out to the practice field, Bill Belichick met with reporters.

Though Michael Hoomanawanui's agent tweeted the news that his client has signed with the Pats, Belichick did not announce the roster move, saying instead that the team still has "a couple of moving parts" and once everything was settled, they would be announced all at once.

With nine rookies on the roster and heading toward their first-ever NFL game, Belichick was asked if there's anything he tells those players.

"We talk to those guys all the way through," he said. "Before the first preseason game, the second; we try to make them aware of the things that are ahead for them...We've all been through those first time things, but the bottom line is there's no substitute for going through the experience. It's an exciting experience and a learning experience, and you do your best to prepare for it."

At this point, it seems safe to assume that Brian Waters isn't playing against Tennessee, if he ever plays again for the Patriots. So it's likely that Dan Connolly will be at right guard, and Ryan Wendell will be at center.

Wendell has been a reserve throughout his career with the Pats, but he's worked hard to be in the position he's in.

"He's been very well coached; obviously Pat (Hill) and his staff at Fresno State did a good job with him," Belichick said. "When we first had 'Wendy', we released him off practice squad and then brought him back to the practice squad, so that's a guy whose level has risen dramatically since he's gotten here.

"He's gotten better with technique, he's gotten stronger...he's just become a better football player. A lot of hard work, a lot of stringing good days together. He had an opportunity to play last year, he might have been in the same position, but he had a couple of injuries, a couple of setbacks. He's done a good job all the way through; he's always been a solid, dependable player."

Three of the Patriots rookies were undrafted; it isn't unusual for an undrafted player to make the roster in New England, but three is a higher number than usual.

Is there a common thread among those players?

"They performed well. They've come in and they've performed to a good competitive level, and shown us...that they could get higher. They've been competitive and there's upside for them to get better as a player," Belichick said. "How far does that take them, how high to they go? I don't know."

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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