|Looking limber, cornerback Asante Samuel was an active body during yesterday's practice. (BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF)|
Positive news to report
FOXBOROUGH - Earlier this week, receiver Randy Moss left his status for Sunday's season opener "a question mark."
The Patriots provided the answer yesterday, as Moss was not listed on the initial injury report of the season, thus clearing the way for him to make his on-field debut against the Jets barring an unexpected setback.
Perhaps the most significant question now is how much Moss can handle. He missed a month of practices and all four exhibition games after pulling up in practice Aug. 1, but returned to the field for the first time this past Sunday.
On Monday, Moss said his primary concern was adjusting to the offensive tempo, and that he didn't want the team to slow down because of him. He is one of five receivers on the active roster, joining Donte' Stallworth, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, and Kelley Washington.
Safety Eugene Wilson, who appeared to pull up in the team's Aug. 24 exhibition win over the Panthers, also wasn't listed on the injury report.
Injury reports take on a different form this year, with the NFL scrapping the designations of "out," "doubtful," "questionable," and "probable" on Wednesdays and Thursdays, instead focusing on practice participation. Players on the Wednesday and Thursday injury reports will now be categorized as having participated in the full practice, having participated in a limited portion of practice, or not having participated at all.
Reserve defensive lineman Mike Wright (knee), safety Rashad Baker (broken right hand), and tight end David Thomas (foot) were listed yesterday as having limited participation.
Quarterback Tom Brady, who over the last few years has regularly been listed as probable because of his right shoulder, remained on the injury report. He was listed as having participated in the full practice.
Friday injury reports will revert to the previous form, denoting players' game availability.
Secret (free) agent
Receiver Reche Caldwell, who was cut by the Patriots Monday and visited with Jets officials Tuesday, was a topic of discussion yesterday at Gillette Stadium. Would he pass along any game plan secrets to the Jets?
Outside linebacker Mike Vrabel had the strongest response.
"Reche barely knew our offense, so I know he doesn't know our defense," Vrabel said coyly, leaving it open for interpretation as to whether he was serious.
Coach Bill Belichick said he didn't see Caldwell's visit being much of a factor. Neither did Jets coach Eric Mangini.
"When we bring in our players, we're bringing them in to get to know them and see whether or not we want to have them on the short list [in case of emergency]," Mangini told New York reporters.
Jets quarterbacks coach Brian Daboll worked with Caldwell last year as Patriots receivers coach. Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer also knows Caldwell from their time with the Chargers.
With defensive lineman Richard Seymour out at least six weeks and safety Rodney Harrison missing four weeks, the Patriots lose not only two of their best defenders, but also two important leaders.
Vrabel, one of the team's seven captains, believes it will still be business as usual.
"I think if you look historically, we've always done well when guys have been out," he said. "I think those guys are going to be missed, but I think if you look in the past, we've always had guys to step up. That's the nature of this business, whether it's through injury or for whatever reason. Guys get an opportunity to go out there and play and I don't think that will be any different in this situation."
Six-year veteran Jarvis Green projects to replace Seymour at right defensive end in the base 3-4 defense. Third-year player James Sanders is expected to take Harrison's place.
The Patriots have been without Seymour for 11 games since selecting him in the first round of the 2001 draft. The team posted a 7-4 record in those contests, with the most notable wins coming in the 2004 playoffs - 20-3 over the Colts in the divisional round and 41-27 over the Steelers in the AFC Championship game. In 99 games with Seymour, the team is 75-24.
Since signing Harrison as a free agent in 2003, the Patriots have been without him for 21 games, posting a 13-8 mark. In the 51 games Harrison has played, the team is 44-7.
Cornerback Ellis Hobbs feels past success in similar situations boosts the team's confidence.
"I think it helps tremendously, it helps us see we can do it," he said. "Regardless of who is out of the game, we understand that everyone has to go out there and do their part, and go out there and make their share of plays, and everything will be OK. We don't look at it as a thing we can not overcome. You have to keep moving on. The season continues on and when they get back we'll welcome them with open arms."
Jones in plans
Jets running back Thomas Jones (strained calf) participated in a limited portion of practice yesterday, but he hinted to reporters that he'll be ready Sunday.
"I feel a lot better than I felt the last couple of weeks," Jones said. "The trainers have done a really good job of getting me back on the field. I'm going to practice, and go into the game and see how it feels."
Jets cornerback Andre Dyson (foot) also participated in a limited portion of practice, and his status affects first-round pick Darrelle Revis. Dyson has been the starter at left cornerback, but Revis is pushing him for the job. If Dyson can't play, Revis would likely get the nod.
Fellow cornerback and return man Justin Miller (thigh) also participated in a limited portion of practice.
Baugher gives plea
Former Patriots punter Danny Baugher, who was released by the team last week, pleaded not guilty to assault and battery last Thursday in Hingham District Court after allegedly punching his father in a parking lot the morning after he was cut by the team . . . Cornerback Asante Samuel participated in practice for the second straight workout in which the media was present. . . . The Patriots worked out six players yesterday, likely to keep their emergency lists updated: defensive backs Jerametrius Butler, Sammy Davis, Dejuan Groce, Bhawoh Jue and Dexter McCleon, and running back Kyle Johnson . . . The Jets signed center/guard Mike Elgin, a seventh-round pick of the Patriots who was released last weekend, to their practice squad. Mike Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.