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Injuries catching up

Receivers Brown, Givens are ailing

FOXBOROUGH -- When it comes to injuries and the Patriots this season, it seems like if it isn't one guy, it's another.

New England got Ted Johnson, Richard Seymour, and Ted Washington back from injuries Sunday night against the Cowboys, but Troy Brown didn't play for the first time this year because of a leg injury, while a leg injury caused David Givens to miss the second half of the 12-0 victory. Coach Bill Belichick said yesterday of Givens's injury, "I don't think it appears too serious."

New England is seriously hurting at receiver, however. David Patten is on injured reserve after undergoing knee surgery. The Patriots added rookie free agent Chas Gessner from the physically-unable-to-perform list last week, but he was inactive against Dallas. Jamin Elliot came off the practice squad to replace Brown. New England finished the game with three able-bodied receivers: Elliot, Deion Branch, and Bethel Johnson. Branch and Johnson have battled injuries this season.

Belichick said he doesn't foresee Brown's injury as being a long-term problem. "I think that Troy's situation last year was a little bit different than it [is] this year, injury wise," Belichick said of the sore knee that hampered Brown most of the season. "Hopefully, he'll be able to return pretty quickly. He was pretty close [Sunday], whereas last year I think that seemed to be a little bit more of a lingering type of injury."

The Patriots took steps last week to bolster their depth at the position. They were one of a reported 16 teams to put a waiver claim on Kevin Johnson, whom the Browns waived last Wednesday and who ended up in Jacksonville. Friday the Patriots auditioned J.J. Stokes, 31, whom the Jaguars waived to make room for Johnson. The 6-foot, 4-inch, 225-pound Stokes, a former first-round pick of the 49ers, caught 13 passes for Jacksonville, averaging 8.9 yards per reception.

New England also got a call from the agent of ex-Patriot Fred Coleman, a member of its '01 Super Bowl team. On Friday the Patriots said, "Thanks, but as of right now, no thanks," according to Coleman's agent, Cameron Foster. Coleman is in California training for the upcoming Arena League season.

Walter footing shaky After struggling through a game in which he averaged 34.6 yards per punt, including an awful 26-yard effort in the first quarter, Ken Walter finds himself last in the league in gross average (38.2) -- and not exactly on solid footing with the Patriots, who had Steve Cheek, Filip Filipovic, and Craig Jarrett in during the bye week.

Belichick tried his best to back his punter/holder since 2001.

"Any time you're executing a technique that has a lot of moving parts like kicking a football or hitting a golf ball or something like that, there are a million things that go into it," Belichick said. "One little thing can send it off and it could be a lot of different things. "Kenny is working hard. [Special teams coach] Brad [Seely] works hard with him. They go over the tapes and look at the techniques. Not every punt is the same, a lot of it is situational. We're always looking to do a better job."Long shots Completions of 46 yards to Branch and 57 yards to Givens Sunday night gave the Patriots six completions this year longer than 45 yards. New England had one pass play of more than 45 yards in 2002, a 49-yarder from Tom Brady to Branch in Week 2, and one in '01, Patten's 91-yarder at Indianapolis. "I never had any lack of confidence last year," Belichick said, "but for whatever reason, we missed them. We've worked hard on it and we worked hard on it last year. Some of the players have made great catches. Tom has made great throws. Our protection has been good enough to get the ball down there or get it off. So all of those elements have been in place." . . . Rookie safety Eugene Wilson was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the second-to-last play of the game. Wilson said the officials told him he led with his head in separating Antonio Bryant from a Quincy Carter pass. Belichick obviously thought the call was questionable, to say the least. "I don't know what to tell [Wilson]," Belichick said yesterday. "I couldn't tell him to do anything differently. I thought he made a real good play on it. Sometimes that's the way it goes. There's nothing I can tell him to do differently than what he did."

Carr to miss game Texans quarterback David Carr will miss at least one game and perhaps more with a sprained right shoulder, meaning veteran Tony Banks will get his second start of the season Sunday against the Patriots.

Carr was injured late in the first quarter of Sunday's 12-10 victory at Buffalo when Bills linebacker Jeff Posey came free for a sack, driving Carr's throwing shoulder into the turf. Center Todd Washington prevented a touchdown by sweeping the ball out of bounds for a safety.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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afc east standings
  W L T Pct. PF PA
Patriots 8 2 0 .800 19.6 15.5
Dolphins 6 4 0 .600 17.7 14.7
Bills 4 6 0 .400 15.9 17.0
Jets 3 7 0 .300 19.7 21.1
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