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Scott brings seasoning to secondary

FOXBOROUGH -- To some, he's the other Chad. He's not linebacker Chad Brown, widely regarded as the Patriots' most significant offseason addition.

And to some, he's the other Scott. He's not safety Guss Scott, who has looked good in his much-anticipated return from a year on the mend following knee surgery.

At the Patriots' training camp, he could be just another guy wearing a jersey numbered in the 20s or 30s, another cornerback.

But Chad Scott is not an also-ran.

The free agent signee is the most experienced of the suddenly deep crop of Patriot corners, and despite giving him few repetitions with the first team in the first two weeks of camp, coach Bill Belichick doesn't talk about Scott as if he were a dark horse to make the team.

Yesterday, Belichick had nothing but praise for the nine-year veteran.

''He's been great," Belichick said. ''I think he really has shown what a professional he is. He's been a pleasure to coach.

''I have a lot of respect for Chad Scott and the way he's handled himself since the moment he's come into this stadium, whether it be in the weight room, the passing camps, training camp, meetings, the offseason program.

''When you say 'true professional,' then Chad Scott's one of the pictures that you see next to that name, from the experience I've had around him here in the last [four] months."

Professional is indeed the word often used to describe Scott, who spent eight seasons with Pittsburgh before joining the Patriots in April.

''He's a pro," safety Rodney Harrison said. ''He comes to work every day. He's a quiet guy, but he's a quiet assassin. He's a physical guy -- he can play corner, he can play safety.

''He's just a pro and that's what you like. He's a veteran guy. He's been through it. He works hard and does all the things that he needs to do. When you have guys like that, it really takes a lot of pressure off me."

Primarily because of injuries, Harrison was joined by three players with a combined five years of NFL experience in the starting secondary during last season's playoffs.

Scott is accustomed to being in the mix. A salary cap casualty with the Steelers, he has 87 career NFL starts (91 games overall) despite sitting out the entire 1998 season because of a torn ligament in his left knee, and he has started every game in which he has played since 1999.

''I've been accustomed to being with the first team, but in the NFL, you never know," said Scott, who is listed as a third-team corner on the Patriots' unofficial depth chart for tomorrow's exhibition opener at Cincinnati. ''Anything can happen. You're only one play away. You have injuries and all kinds of things that can happen in a season. So you need a whole team, a complete team, in order to be a winner."

With seven cornerbacks on the roster, the Patriots may be beyond complete at that position. But Scott's agent, Mason Ashe, said his client never was concerned with returning starters or incoming players when looking for a team to join. There were other opportunities, but Scott wanted to play for a team with a winning attitude.

''I thought it was a great opportunity to come here," Scott said. ''The competition is there, but that's what it's all about. That's what the NFL is all about.

''When you play sports, any kind of sport, it's always about competing and trying to do the best you can. I've done that my whole life, so it's no different now."

Scott's competition at cornerback includes Asante Samuel and Randall Gay, starters in the Super Bowl; Duane Starks, acquired in an offseason trade; Tyrone Poole, a 2003 starter who began last season as a starter before being injured; Ellis Hobbs, a rookie third-round draft pick; and Hank Poteat, signed just before the 2004 postseason.

A similar situation exists at safety, with seven players listed.

The numbers at a particular position change from year to year, but New England took eight defensive backs into the 2004 season -- four cornerbacks, three safeties, and a swingman.

Scott's versatility could be a factor in helping him make the team, though there are four virtual locks to be on the roster at safety in Harrison, Eugene Wilson, Guss Scott, and rookie James Sanders.

''He works hard, he's tough, he really understands things well, [and] he has the ability to play multiple positions," Belichick said. ''He kind of only did one thing with Pittsburgh in their defensive system.

''Some of the things we've asked him to do, he hasn't done before or hasn't done since college at Maryland. That said, he's very openminded and receptive to new ideas and concepts, trying to get them down, trying to understand how they'll fit into his responsibility on defense. And he really works hard to perfect them."

Despite his hard work, Scott feels he has yet to let loose because he is still adjusting to the system.

''It's a learning process," he said. ''When you come to a new place, you have to learn everything, from the schedule on. It's pretty much starting from Step 1. Of course, when you're thinking, you can't just let your body go and relax, because you're still out there thinking. But that's what the preseason is for. It'll come around.

''I'm pretty much still trying to get acclimated to the philosophy and scheme. The philosophy is a little bit different than Pittsburgh, but for the most part, they're both aggressive defenses. I'm just looking forward to getting out there and playing.

''I try to work hard and do what the coaches ask me to do. That's pretty much it."

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