Is Brady the comeback king?
Boston Globe Patriots writer Mike Reiss checks in every Tuesday with his take on the Pats. Ask your question now, and come back next week to see if it was answered.
Was wondering if you could put Tom Brady's fourth-quarter comeback statistics in historical perspective. How do his 21 fourth-quarter comeback compare to other "all-time" quarterbacks (i.e., John Elway, Dan Marino, etc.)?
George Corriveau, Waltham
A: The statistic is leading a team to victory after facing a deficit or tie in the fourth quarter. Brady is in his sixth NFL season and he has 21. According to the Dolphins media guide, Dan Marino had 50 such comebacks. According to the Broncos media guide, John Elway had 46 such comebacks. So Brady is within striking distance given his current pace.
Do you think it is fair to say that Troy Brown is among the greatest "team" players in professional sports history? I'd be interested to hear if you had any other candidates that leap to mind. I think it would be very cool if there were some sort of award for this sort of thing.
Jason Born, Somerville
A: Real interesting thought. Bill Belichick was asked where Brown ranks among team players he's seen in 31 years of NFL coaching and his response spoke volumes: "There may be other players that are his equal, but I don't think there is really anybody that has done any more than he has." As for where Brown might rank when combining other sports (i.e. baseball, basketball, hockey), that opens a whole new world, where names like former Celtics John Havlicek and Frank Ramsey enter the discussion. But Brown would have to be considered near the top of the list.
Despite some communication errors in certain pass coverages, the Patriots showed a little more swagger this week on defense -- a few turnovers, some big hits, and a goal-line stand. Hobbs and Samuel look like they have the potential to blossom into a solid cornerback duo. Do you think this week was a defensive performance worth building off of?
Sean, Brooklyn, NY
A: Sure it is. Another positive was that the Patriots seemed to put their most consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback in quite some time, which forced Gus Frerotte to sometimes get rid of the ball quicker than he wanted to. The negative would be Frerotte totaled 360 passing yards, his third highest total in 73 career starts.
Have you noticed a change in Rosevelt Colvin since Tedy Bruschi has returned? While Bruschi was out, Colvin seemed listless and was getting locked on by blockers all the time. I was concerned that he wasn't going to come back all the way from his injury. Then Bruschi comes back and suddenly he's playing like the Rosevelt Colvin I saw play for the Bears. Do you agree that there's some intangible in Bruschi that seems to have reinvigorated Colvin?
Tom Lacey, Plainville
A: I have noticed a difference in Colvin, although my thought is that it probably has more to do with Colvin himself than Bruschi. Since Bruschi's return and Mike Vrabel's subsequent move from outside linebacker to inside linebacker, Colvin has started at Vrabel's outside spot. And as you mentioned, his ability to set the edge on running plays has been much better in recent weeks, and over the last three games he has totaled 22 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery.
First, I am very impressed with Michael Stone. True, he gave up some catches to Randy McMichael, but there was no yards-after-catch and he was stellar against the run. Second, what has happened to Eugene Wilson? I find he's stepped down his game immeasurably. Lastly, I want your take on Ty Warren. I find he's acceptable against the rush, maybe even slightly above average. And he's durable. But he's never in the backfield, and his lifetime sack total is very disappointing for a first-round pick. Is he the second coming of Kenneth Sims or am I missing something?
Elliot Kramer, Montreal
A: Stone (7 tackles) played a nice game on Sunday in his first career NFL start. I would caution that it's one game, however, and the team previously brought in Arturo Freeman to play in front of him. That tells me that the Patriots' initial thought was probably that they didn't want Stone playing safety. As for Wilson, he seems to be missing Rodney Harrison. After totaling four interceptions apiece in his first two seasons, Wilson doesn't have any this season and has taken some bad angles while attempting tackles. On Warren, he's not always being asked to get to the quarterback, but instead to control two gaps and keep linebackers free to make plays. I think he does a solid job in this area and does the unsung grunt work that allows a team to play the 3-4.
My question is, where the heck is defensive lineman Marquise Hill? Is he in the FBI witness protection program or something?
Frank Novio, Mansfield
A: When the Patriots drafted Hill in the second round in 2004, my thought was that he was insurance if anything happened to Richard Seymour. I'm sure it's disappointing to the Patriots' staff that Hill -- who is currently questionable with an ankle injury -- hasn't emerged to this point. He's been active for five games this season, inactive for four, and has three tackles. Rookie free agent Mike Wright (active for 8 games, 9 tackles) has seen more playing time of late. Hill, who is only 23, did come out of LSU after his junior year and thus needed some more seasoning. Belichick was asked about Hill last week: "I think he's made great strides from last year and he still has a ways to go. The development of the consistency and all of that, that's certainly what he needs to be striving for -- is striving for -- and that's important to him. It's important to all of those young players."
For a high draft pick, shouldn't we be seeing more production from Marquise Hill? Do you think he will eventually develop into an impact player?
Speros Zakas, Salem
A: Two questions on Hill (6 games played in career) came into the mailbag this week. Hill, who was drafted 63rd overall in 2004, is a bit behind some of the other defensive linemen drafted within a few picks of him: Tennessee's Antwan Odom (57th) has played in 25 games, and Arizona's Darnell Dockett (64th) has emerged as a starter and has 25 games on his resume as well. Belichick seemed to indicate this week that Hill is still on the upswing. Asked if Hill has improved from last year, he said: "He's made huge improvement from last year. Again, you're talking about a player who came out early. He came out as a junior. I think he learned a lot from last year not only learning our system but also learning about being a professional football player, about playing against a higher level of competition."
Why is it that Tim Dwight has been used so sparingly in the passing game? It seems to me that every time he catches the ball he looks like he could go all the way with that great running style of his. I was surprised to see on replay that in his big play Sunday he actually covered [almost] 30 yards on the ground in no time at all. What do you think keeps Belichick from using him more often?
Tom Lacey, Plainville
A: When the Patriots signed Dwight this offseason, they had a specific plan to manage his playing time between receiver and punt returner with the idea he would stay healthy throughout the season. At 5-foot-8, 180 pounds and in his eighth season, Dwight isn't built to take the same type of pounding as a front-line receiver. So the Patriots pick their spots with him and he seems to deliver more often than not when given the opportunity. He has 11 catches for 203 yards and 2 TDs on the year.
Should Patriots fans reassess this season's goals? With everything that has happened this season, is a division title and a rematch with the Colts in Indianapolis a more realistic end to the season, or should I keep my bags packed for Detroit in February?
Christopher Sperou, Marlborough
A: In 2003, when the Patriots lost to the Redskins to fall to 2-2, I remember thinking it was time to readjust the team's goals. Lawyer Milloy's departure was barely a month old and the team had lost starters Rosevelt Colvin (hip), Ted Washington (leg), Ted Johnson (foot), Mike Vrabel (broken arm) and Mike Compton (foot) to injuries. Turns out the team never lost again. So no, despite the growing number of injuries, I don't think Patriots fans should reassess this season's goals, especially with a winnable AFC East.
What's with Brady's new routine at the line of scrimmage? He is constantly changing coverages/plays, which cause the defense to change their play/coverage. He is getting to be like Peyton Manning. Last year, Brady did some of this but not to the extent that he is this year. Last Sunday against the Dolphins, he ended up needing to use two time outs because the play clock was running down on him.
Wendy, Wells, Maine
A: I believe Brady is coming to the line with a choice of a few plays and what he's doing is looking to see if the defense might tip its coverage. Sometimes he'll bark out a snap count to see if anyone on defense moves. Then, once he makes a determination as to how he sees the defense, he chooses a play, communicates it to the team, then the ball is snapped.
1) Do you think the defense really jelled -- first time stopping a red zone drive -- or is the Dolphins' O that bad? Or both? 2) What do you think should be done to keep the positive trend going -- aside from making sure Richard Seymour never plays offense again?
David Caploe, San Francisco
A: The Patriots' defense deserves some credit. The run defense was solid, holding the Dolphins to 3.1 yards per carry. Miami entered the game averaging 4.5 yards per carry. The pass defense allowed a whopping 360 yards but came up big when it had to. If the Patriots can maintain the same run defense, and tighten up the pass defense a bit, I believe they'll be on their way. As for what they can do to keep the positive trend going, I would echo Bill Belichick's words and say it's about making plays in critical situations -- such as Ellis Hobbs breaking up back-to-back, end-of-game fade routes, Tedy Bruschi breaking up a pass on the goal-line, Willie McGinest batting down a pass and Rosevelt Colvin forcing a fumble, among other plays.
Both the running game and defense seemed to pick it up in the Dolphins game. How much is real rather than playing a weak rival?
Nissim Jabiles, Lima, Peru
A: Probably a little bit of both, but I don't think the talent level was that different between the Patriots and Dolphins teams on the field. So if I had to choose one or the other, I'll say it was the Patriots' performance more than them playing a weak rival. The Dolphins did beat Carolina (7-2) and Denver (7-2) at home this season.
Do you think this team is more like the 2001 team which was 5-5 before clicking and on a long win streak to the Super Bowl, or the 2002 squad, which started 3-0 and then went 6-7 the rest of the way. The game against Indy reminded me of the 2001 midseason game against St. Louis, which was close before the Pats fumbled near the goal and the Rams drove the other way for a 2 touchdown lead (if my memory is correct.) Before Dillon's fumble at the end of the 1st half against Indy, the Pats were poised to tie the game -- and that fumble seemed to turn the tide.
Bob Smietana, Wildwood, Ill.
A: Right now, through nine games, I'd say more like the 2002 team because the defense has been gashed pretty badly. I don't recall it being like this in 2001, when opponents had consistent success in one area against the Patriots' D.
Your comments on four observances. 1) How does the defense/special teams incur a delay of game penalty in each of the last two games? 2) Is Belichick going soft on controlling the players' on-field celebrations? 3) When the offense is in its sluggish mode, why don't they change pace like other teams and go to the "hurry up" offense? Seems Brady operates it nicely when it's in the closing 2 minutes. 4) The D is very poor at rushing up the middle, and the outside blitzers can't seem to penetrate into the QB's line of sight...they always allow themselves to be pushed way around the sides of the QB not affecting his sense of urgency.
Paul Iannelli, Acworth, Ga.
A: 1) I believe the penalties were the "unnatural act" of simulating a snap count (against the Colts) and flinching while preparing to cover a punt (against the Dolphins). 2) Not sure if Belichick is going soft, but he did want the team to play with more emotion and passion. The biggest problem I have with the celebrations is when they come after the opposition gains significant yards or first downs. 3) The Patriots have gone hurry-up at times, but could use it more, especially in the second quarter. 4) Belichick was pretty happy with the pressure against the Dolphins, feeling the Patriots forced the Dolphins to throw quicker than they wanted to at times.
Why were the Patriots wearing their home uniforms for Sunday's game in Miami?
Frank Gomes, Port St. Lucie, Fla.
A: The home team chooses which uniform it wants to wear and Miami chooses to wear white for its home games. So that forced opponents to wear their dark uniforms.
With all the injuries that Pats have this year I question their conditioning. Did they have a change with their trainer this past offseason?
Topher, Waitsfield, Vt.
A: The Patriots have had the same trainer since 2002 and the same strength and conditioning coach since 2000. A similar question seems to come into the mailbag each week. My feeling is that the majority of injuries are football-specific -- such as center Dan Koppen's from Sunday's game. It appears running back Heath Evans landed on him. No change in the amount of conditioning could have prevented that. Same with Randall Gay (ankle), Richard Seymour (knee), Rodney Harrison (knee), etc.
When Russ Hochstein came into the game for the injured Dan Koppen, I noticed that every time before he hiked the ball, he dropped his head to look back at Brady's hands. Were you surprised that Miami (notorious for getting off the ball quickly) didn't notice this and use this to their advantage? Do you think this is something the coaches will go over with him in practice in case he has to start at center Sunday?
Jason Gibbs, Cambridge
A: Hochstein was in for 19 official snaps and seven came in the shotgun. He did look back at times in the shotgun, but since he played just 19 snaps, it probably wasn't long enough for the Dolphins to detect a clear trend. This will be something to keep an eye on, as some Carolina players said in Week 2 that they had solved the Patriots' silent count.
Do you think the Pats can win the AFC East with only 8 or 9 wins?
Jake Luskin, New York, NY
A: Yes. Buffalo (4-5, 2-1 in division) is the team's only threat in the division and it has a tough schedule remaining: San Diego (road); Carolina (home), Miami (road), New England (home), Denver (home), Cincinnati (road), Jets (road). Those teams are a combined 36-27 right now. The Patriots' remaining foes are a combined 24-39.
Do you feel that we could lose to any of the remaining division teams that we have to play?
Bradley Fuller, Birdsboro
A: The Patriots' remaining schedule looks like this: New Orleans (home), Kansas City (away), Jets (home), Bills (away), Buccaneers (home), Jets (away) and Dolphins (home). The game in Buffalo, Dec. 11, could be played in tough conditions. That looks like the toughest division game left.
This question is no indictment on the season (I still think the Pats will pull it together enough to make an exciting run), I just wanted to ask it before the college season ended. With Saban in the NFL now, other than Notre Dame and Fresno Sate, what other schools with Bill Belichick ties are worth keeping an eye on prior to the draft for prospective future Pats.
Roderick Edge, Redondo Beach, Calif.
A: Keep an eye on Iowa, where Kirk Ferentz is head coach. Ferentz was Belichick's offensive line coach with the Browns. Virginia would be another, where Al Groh is head coach. Belichick and Groh worked together in New England (1996) and with the Jets (1997-99).
I think it may take a couple of years for the Patriots' defense to return to top 5 NFL status, mainly due to the poor personnel moves in the offseason. None of the Pats trades/free agent additions have worked out this year (does anyone think Monty Beisel or Chad Brown are going to have much playing time during the rest of the season?). Right now, even if everyone was healthy, the Pats would still need at least two more quality defensive players to be a top 5 NFL defense. Why is everyone so down on Corey Dillon? It seems like every time Brady hands him the football, Dillon is immediately confronted with a wall of defensive jerseys. No running back is going to perform unless the offensive line can at least make a little hole for him.
Jeff D., Arlington, Va.
A: Not so sure about this one. Sometimes all it takes is one player to make a difference, or to hurt a defense. I don't think the Patriots need more than one year to return to Top 5 status. As for the offseason acquisitions, cornerback Duane Starks was a disappointment. I still think Monty Beisel can be a good player and it's too early to write him off. Chad Brown is seeing his role change -- from inside linebacker to outside linebacker. He could be a key on third downs the rest of the season, which I believe was the coaching staff's initial intention. As for Dillon, I don't think it's fair to pinpoint his lack of production (441 yards on 126 carries, 3.5 avg.) solely on the offensive line. Heath Evans (84 yards, 17 carries) looked pretty good running behind the same line.
My question was going to be "How are we allowing every quarterback to throw for 250 yards-plus against us?" but realize that the answer could be related to the absence of Rodney Harrison. Are there other reasons besides missing Rodney? Follow-up questions: Since Rodney has been out for more than five weeks now and we show no signs of fixing this, do you expect this to continue for the reminder of the season? How can we fix this? Amazing that opposing QBs, who used to fear us, will now be eager to post record numbers against us.
K.P. Rajan, New York, NY
A: Harrison's absence hurts, but that's not the only factor for the Patriots ranking 31st in passing yards allowed per game (255.1), 27th in points allowed per game (26.2), 30th in first downs allowed per game (21.3), 30th in third-down efficiency (42.7 percent), 30th in sacks per pass play (14 in 329 passes), and 30th in interceptions per pass play (4 in 329 passes). I think it will get better in the second half of the season based on two factors: better players on the field (i.e. Seymour) and the fact that each of the team's remaining opponents is in the mid- to lower half of the league in passing yards per game. Kansas City, ranked 14th in passing yards per game, is the highest rated team left in this category on the schedule.
I know everyone lauded Eric Mangini as a genius before he was hired as defensive coordinator, and he was defensive backs coach before that. My question is really what's changed since last year, other than Romeo Crennel leaving, and Rodney going down? Last year Seymour was hurt for the Indy game, we had Randall Gay (undrafted free agent off the street) playing corner; Law was out. Samuel played opposite Gay. We had Don Davis and Rodney at safety, and Troy Brown in the nickel. Not a lot has changed since then, other than one injury, Rodney's. I feel the drastic difference is really a reflection of the departure of Romeo Crennel, and missing Rodney to a lesser extent. Are Mangini's schemes up to par with Crennel's?
Mike Fraser, Nashua, NH
A: I think there are other factors that made the Patriots-Colts game this year different than the AFC Championship last year, such as Tedy Bruschi playing his second game of the season, which was really his second week of training camp. Duane Starks playing cornerback was another change. So I don't think comparing the two games is a fair assessment in looking at Crennel vs. Mangini. Crennel has coached for 35 years (25 in the NFL) and has a great resume. Mangini is 34 and was bright enough to be wooed by three teams this offseason (Patriots, Browns, Dolphins). While it's fair to look at the defensive schemes and currently wonder if the Patriots can be doing more, I feel Mangini deserves more than nine games in his new role before being accurately judged against Crennel.
Given the many problems in the Patriots secondary, and the lack of talent among available defensive backs and safeties, why doesn't Belichick consider moving [Ray] Ventrone from the practice squad into a safety position and switching Eugene Wilson back to the corner? I understand from some interviews that Ventrone is not a bad player.
Larry Petrone, Medfield
A: Belichick raved about Ventrone, a rookie free agent out of Villanova, last week. Ventrone has twice been named Practice Player of the Week, an award given to the player who helps prepare the team the most for victories. My feeling is that if Ventrone was ready to contribute, he would have been on the roster already. The coaching staff probably feels he needs more time to develop.
Rohan Davey, where is he and what has he been up to?
David Stone, Gordonsville, Va.
A: Davey remains a free agent. He had a brief stint with the Cardinals but was released. He's had a few workouts recently, with the Bills and Vikings, but no one has picked him up.
What is the latest word on Rodney Harrison? I know they were talking about surgery after the swelling was down. Is he off the crutches? They were originally saying that he had torn the "big 3" in his knee, which at his age would most likely end his career. Is it looking like this?
Alan Emus, Mansfield
A: Harrison's agent, Steve Feldman, declined comment when asked if Harrison's surgery had been scheduled as of last week. Harrison is determined to make a comeback and he's the type of guy I could see beating the odds. Earlier this year, he joked about playing linebacker when he couldn't run anymore and maybe he finds a second career at that spot.
Do NFL teams have to pay players who are on the injured reserve list even if it's just a roster maneuver to show a demotion (see Duane Starks and Tyrone Poole)? In the case of Terrell Owens, is four games the minimum number of games a player can be suspended for? Why couldn't the Eagles suspend T.O. without pay for the rest of the season?
Cegeon Chan, Cambridge
A: Teams still have to pay players on injured reserve. If they didn't, we'd probably see more teams putting players on IR and manipulating the salary cap. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, four games is the most amount of games a player can be suspended for conduct deemed detrimental to the team.
I'd please like to start with this thought. As far as football championships go, let's not lose perspective that only one other team has done what the Patriots did from '01 to '04 and it probably wasn't even as sweet because the Cowboys were a team of all-stars. I believe that now's the time when fans need to show our Pats some unconditional love -- some blind faith. We all know they're banged up this year. Winning 3 out of 4 Super Bowls takes a lot out of you. They've got some good players this year, they just need to click a little more. Having said that, what do you think Belichick (or perhaps Kraft) is going to do about the Pats coaching/coordinator situations? If you ask me, Bill looks extremely overwhelmed there on the sidelines. Any changes any time soon?
Greg Raymond, Denver
A: I don't foresee major changes on the coaching/coordinator situations; I think Belichick wants to let his coordinators grow and understands there's a learning curve at this point. There are expected to be several NFL head coaching changes after the season, so that should lead to many new assistants becoming available. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Belichick already has a few coaches in mind as possible additions to the staff in non-coordinator roles.
It seems that every year our CBs get hurt. Is there a dynamic about the schemes that puts added pressure on our CB's ankles, knees, etc.? I know a lot of last year's injuries were due to the porous Heinz Field. But I mean c'mon, how can our CBs continue to get hurt every year like this?
Neil F., Ashburnham
A: The only dynamic I can think of is that the Patriots like their cornerbacks to play physical and be strong in run support. That physical play might lead to more injuries. At the same time, how do you avoid the type of ankle injury Randall Gay sustained in Week 2 when running with Carolina receiver Steve Smith? Or Rodney Harrison's knee injury in Week 3 when a player rolled into him? Some of them are just football injuries.
Have you heard any thoughts about the Patriots picking up Marc Edwards? Someone that is probably some what familiar with the system and even though the Pats picked up running backs over the couple of weeks and need big defensive help, he might be a nice addition.
A: Edwards played for the Patriots in 2001-2002 and is more of a traditional fullback than a running back. I think the Patriots are happy with Heath Evans in that role right now, as Evans gives them options as a runner and blocker.
Heading into the Dolphins game, the major concern I have with the secondary is the lack of leadership and physical presence. Someone needs to step up and become a physical and emotional leader of this group. Do you think Eugene Wilson can step up and become a leader and bring this group together? Being so maligned all year, I would love to see this group get a chip on its shoulder and develop the "us against the world" mentality. I would love to hear your thoughts as to whether you think the secondary personnel we have can improve to a higher level and compete with the elite NFL teams.
Marty Cormier, Chatham, Ontario
A: You had to be pleased with some of the physical play from the secondary against the Dolphins, specifically Asante Samuel's big hit on Ricky Williams. On Wilson, I'm not sure he's ready to step up and become a leader of that group. I think he's having a down year, which might have to do with playing next to six different starting safeties (Harrison, G. Scott, Sanders, Freeman, Gay, Stone). I do think the Patriots' secondary will improve in the final seven games, based on a combination of factors: overall better performance, a better pass rush, and less threatening teams on the other side of the field.
Why do you think the Pats didn't make a trade at the deadline for a defensive back? In years past, we picked up valuable guys like Ted Washington. I thought for sure they would make a deal. This will be the spot to attack for the rest of the season for sure.
Christian Pitcheralle, Albany, NY
A: There really wasn't anyone available, Chris. It's much different than baseball, where teams are often dumping players who can help another team. In the NFL, few deals are made at the trading deadline. Some of the free agents currently available [i.e. Donald Strickland, Ken Irvin] would be on par with what the Patriots might have acquired at the deadline. The team is also tight to the salary cap -- $454,000 under as of last Friday - so that's a major factor as well.
Recently there was some speculation about Lenny Walls joining the Patriots once he is officially released by Denver. Is there anything new to report on that front and is this a guy who fans should be excited about?
Barry McIsaac, Pembroke, MA
A: It is my understanding that Walls will have to clear waivers and the Patriots are unlikely to claim him anyway.
Do you think the days of lineman playing fullback are over for the Pats based on the injuries received while playing "out of position"?
Dave Bancroft, Fairhaven
A: Yes. It's easy to criticize the Patriots for playing Richard Seymour at fullback after he was injured. At the time, my feeling was that it was a nice way to keep players motivated by switching up their roles, sort of like Mike Vrabel at tight end. My opinion has now changed. I don't think Seymour should play fullback again.
Would a better choice for a blocking back in a goal line offense be tight end Daniel Graham rather than Seymour or Klecko, the former who got hurt and the latter who holds quite a bit?
A: Graham could be a good choice. I feel he's one of the better blockers in the NFL. Denver defensive coordinator Larry Coyer was raving about him earlier this year, noting how much he's improved since coming into the league in 2002.
Mike Stone has been called "very smart" and "very hard working" recently by Bill Belichick. Let's see, the last guy we heard that about was Arturo Freeman - just before he was released. Don't unpack Mike. Belichick also said Tyrone Poole is "getting better, he's coming along" just before he was put on IR. I realize that reporters need to have a good relationship with a coach for professional reasons, and I also realize that that you can't stand there like Carol Kane in "The Princess Bride" and scream "LIAR" at the coach like he's Billy Crystal playing Miracle Max. But just the same, couldn't somebody ask him if these reports are ever even close to accurate or if there's a player in the league he wouldn't regard as "Smart, hard working, and coming along"?
Dan McIsaac, Long Valley, NJ
A: A couple of things to pass on here, Dan. First is that Bill Belichick rarely, if ever, criticizes one of his own players while speaking to the media. About as critical as it will get is him saying something like "I'm sure he'd like to have a few of those plays back." I actually think he meant what he said about Freeman - that he's smart and hard-working. What he didn't say, and what was evident after the team cut him despite being short-handed, was that Freeman had lost a step physically. And on the injuries, I think he feels it gives opponents a competitive advantage by revealing anything more than what is on the league-mandated injury report. So sometimes that makes the coach-media exchanges a bit repetitive. Take Monday as an example. As reporters, it was our duty to ask about center Dan Koppen's status, as he is a very important player to the team. Belichick's answer was something we've heard before: "I don't know for sure what the extent of the injury is. When we have it, we'll announce it or he'll be on the injury report on Wednesday." I believe he knows and simply doesn't want to give the Saints two days to prepare for whatever the answer is. I wish it was the other way around, but at the same time, I respect his intention to protect any competitive advantage for the team.
How is rookie Ryan Claridge progressing? Is he healthy enough to be practicing at all? Do you foresee him being a part of the LB rotation next year or mostly a special teamer?
Steve Brown, Hoboken, NJ
A: Claridge is on injured reserve and can't practice with the team. I believe he is working out heavily in the weight room and will be in the mix next year for backup linebacker duties and front-line special teams work.
If Matt Light is able to return to form by the end of the season, how would that affect the playing time of Mankins and Kaczur? Both rookies seemed to be holding pretty well in the last couple of games, but how much is influenced by the help of the tight ends? Did Graham get injured helping out the offensive line?
Nissim Jabiles, Lima, Peru
A: In the short-term, we'd probably see a rotation at tackle similar to the first two games of the year. Ultimately, I think Light would start the bulk of the plays at left tackle and Kaczur would become the swing tackle - backing up the left and right side. Kaczur credited Graham for helping him several times against Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, but Kaczur more than held his own against the Dolphins. I believe Graham's shoulder injury didn't happen on one play, but is more of a lingering pain that intensified over the last week.