There is a long list of Patriots who won't play tonight against the New Orleans Saints, but coach Bill Belichick said the injuries have not hurt the team's preparation.
''If you have 10 guys out, and they're all at different positions, it's probably not going to affect the overall quality of practice," Belichick said. ''I don't think we're at that point yet. I think that whenever the numbers get depleted to the point that it really overworks those players so much relative to the rest of the team, you're either going to probably end up losing them or you cut it back so that you manage that position."
Four of the 11 receivers on the roster -- P.K. Sam, David Terrell, Cedric James, and Bethel Johnson -- didn't practice this week, and presumably won't play.
The tight end position was a problem in last week's exhibition in Cincinnati. With Benjamin Watson out, tackle Jeff Roehl lined up at the position on several plays in the fourth quarter.
No announcement regarding injury status is required for preseason games, but linebacker Mike Vrabel, defensive end Ty Warren, cornerbacks Randall Gay and Duane Starks, tackle Brandon Gorin, and running backs Chad Morton and Cedric Cobbs are not expected to play.
Tailback Corey Dillon missed the entire week of practice to be with his wife, Desiree, who delivered the couple's second child, a girl, Tuesday in California. Dillon returned in time for the team's walkthrough Wednesday evening, but is likely to play a limited role, if any, in tonight's game.
It wouldn't fly
One Patriots veteran said he couldn't imagine a Terrell Owens-type situation happening in New England.
''I'm glad we don't have to deal with that; it's a circus," safety Rodney Harrison said. ''I think the veterans on this team would weed a guy like that out.
''You can't be a 'me' guy on this team and have success."
Be our guests
As part of the NFL's Play Football Month, the Patriots will host 1,500 players and coaches from 18 area high schools at tonight's game . . . The Patriots and Saints haven't met in the preseason in 11 years. The last exhibition meeting between the two was in 1994, a game won by host New England, 24-6 . . . Antowain Smith, the Patriots' No. 8 all-time rusher (2,781 yards), is a reserve in his first season with New Orleans, and rookie Alfred Fincher of Norwood is running with the second team at middle linebacker for the Saints.