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Sanders's primary goal is more playing time in secondary

FOXBOROUGH -- The last time second-year safety James Sanders played regularly on defense, the performance was one he'd like to forget.

It was early in the fourth quarter of the Patriots' 17-7 loss to the Broncos Sept. 24, and Sanders was subbing for the injured Eugene Wilson. After being targeted on a few long pass plays in the third quarter -- and being flagged for interference on one of them -- Sanders overran a play that resulted in Javon Walker's 83-yard touchdown catch, a mistake that taught him a harsh lesson about life in the NFL.

"When the opportunity presents itself, you have to make plays, and if you don't you suffer the consequences," said Sanders, who turned 23 yesterday. "If you do make the plays, that might change the outcome of the game, you never know."

The 5-foot-10-inch, 210-pound Sanders hasn't played on defense since, although that could change today.

The Patriots' depth in the defensive backfield will be tested with safety Rodney Harrison out and the status of Wilson questionable. If Wilson can't play, it's likely Artrell Hawkins and Chad Scott will team up at safety, with Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs at cornerback.

But when the team needs extra defensive backs in its nickel or dime packages -- which the Jets might try to force the Patriots to employ with spread formations -- Sanders knows he could get the nod he's been waiting for.

"I'm anxious for whenever they call my number, and I'm making sure that I'm ready," said Sanders, one of the Patriots' core special teams players. "Every day I go out early before practice, working with [defensive backs coach] Otis [Smith] on my technique and feet. I'm just waiting for my time to go out there and show everyone I can play ball."

Special guest?
Safety Rashad Baker, who was claimed off waivers Tuesday, has a chance to be active today after practicing throughout the week. Baker said contributions on special teams are his "first and foremost" priority, but he's also been learning parts of the defense. The third-year veteran said playing at Gillette Stadium has some added meaning for him, as that was where he saw his first extended playing time, as a rookie in 2004 with the Bills. Baker came off the bench in a 29-6 loss to the Patriots that season, making five tackles. He thinks that performance might have contributed to the Patriots picking him up. "I was thankful to have the opportunity to show them I could play," Baker said.

Grounded Jets
The Patriots have won seven straight and nine of their last 10 against the Jets . . . New England is 15-2 in its last 17 games against AFC East opponents . . . Quarterback Tom Brady is 9-1 as a starter against the Jets . . . With a win today, Brady would tie Steve Grogan's franchise record for wins by a starting quarterback (75) . . . Former Patriots receiver Tim Dwight serves as the Jets' primary punt returner, with nine for 92 yards (10.2-yard average), while also contributing offensively with eight catches for 49 yards . . . In recognition of Veterans Day, former Patriots Pete Brock, Gino Cappelletti, Tony Collins, Russ Francis, John Hannah, John Smith, Andre Tippett, and Tom Yewcic will escort veterans from a local VFW or American Legion onto the field before the game. Cappelletti and Yewcic are military veterans, with Cappelletti serving in the Army from 1957-58 and Yewcic in the Army from 1955-57. In addition, 26 former Patriots will be on hand to greet veterans before the game . . . Former Patriots receiver Stanley Morgan will serve as an honorary captain today.

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