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Light's return is still iffy

Matt Light said he's been encouraged by his rehabilitation from a broken right leg and subsequent complication (blood pooling), but the Patriots left tackle wouldn't say whether he feels he can make it back this season.

''Rehab is never fun but I'm just doing what I have to do," Light said. ''I feel progress is being made, so when you feel progress you're always encouraged. But I don't know about anything else. You just work as hard as you can in hopes you can work yourself back."

The Patriots are strongly encouraged by coach Bill Belichick not to talk about their injuries, so Light declined to be more specific. The blood pooling developed a few weeks ago, setting him back when he was on the verge of returning.

Team sources say Light is a longshot to return, but obviously the chances improve the longer the postseason continues.

Light's status on the Patriots' injury report has remained ''doubtful" with a leg injury. Part of the reason that he hasn't been placed on injured reserve may be that the team doesn't have salary cap space to add a player anyway.

Light started the first three games before breaking his leg Sept. 25 at Pittsburgh when teammate Dan Koppen fell on it. Light was replaced by rookie Nick Kaczur for nine games before Tom Ashworth took over the last two games after Kaczur injured his shoulder.

Dry times

The Jets decided to ban alcohol sales for Monday night's game against the Patriots. The team made the decision after a high level of rowdiness at the Meadowlands this season, particularly at a game Nov. 27 (the Sunday after Thanksgiving), when nine arrests were made, and there were two stabbings outside a restroom . . . If the Patriots play the Colts at the RCA Dome in the playoffs, they'll have to contend with the ear-splitting crowd noise, which was evident in Sunday's game against San Diego. Chargers linebacker Steve Foley said, ''That's the loudest place I've ever played in. You can certainly understand the home-field advantage the Colts will have in the playoffs. It's amazing in this place." The Chargers also noted how Peyton Manning can silence the throng with a wave of his hands . . . The Chargers might not get into the playoffs, but they'd be the proverbial ''team you don't want to play." The well-balanced Chargers have won at Indianapolis and New England. ''I think we've shown we can play with anyone, anyplace," said linebacker Donnie Edwards. ''We have another place to play in next week [Kansas City], but that's the schedule we've had to endure. We've logged so many miles this year. We've traveled to the East five times. This team has been through a lot. We've proved that we can play anywhere."

In for a look

The Patriots tried out linebacker Tommy Hendricks, a teammate of Tom Brady at Michigan, on Monday. Hendricks was the Jaguars' special teams player of the year in 2004, and also has played for the Dolphins. He was cut by the Jaguars after he was arrested for violating a restraining order against his former wife. He also was being treated for an unspecified medical condition. The 6-foot-2-inch, 235-pound Hendricks was a hard-hitting strong safety at Michigan who was converted to linebacker by the Dolphins. If his personal problems are behind him, one AFC official said, ''he's a very good special teams player, an impact special teams player." . . . Former Patriot Roman Phifer, who had been waiting for a chance to return to football while rehabilitating his surgically repaired shoulder, signed Monday with the Giants. Phifer stayed in shape and would have returned to the Patriots had they called . . . Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli's name is popping up as a possible replacement for Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi, who may retire in the next year, even though Pioli signed a long-term deal with the Patriots last season. Said one AFC official, ''He's the name heard most often. I know it was out there for a while last year, but it's being mentioned again."

Still not talking

As was the case when he was a Bill Belichick assistant, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis declined to speak to reporters after visiting the Patriots locker room last Saturday. Weis did say, ''I'm not here. It's not about me. It's about the players." . . . Twenty-five of the 30 teams who advanced to the Super Bowl since the playoff format was changed in 1990 have received first-round byes as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed . . . No running back has ripped off a run of 10 or more yards against the Patriots defense since the Chiefs' Larry Johnson on Nov. 27. Since then, only Jets quarterback Brooks Bollinger has made a run of more than 10 yards, a 12-yard scamper Dec. 4 at Gillette Stadium . . . Brady has been nominated for the FedEx Air Player of the Week. Fans can vote at through noon Friday. If Brady gets the most votes, FedEx will donate $5,000 to Children's Hospital in Boston.

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