Patriots notebook

Cardinals might rest Boldin

By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / December 19, 2008
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FOXBOROUGH - The Patriots might catch a break when it comes to defending the Cardinals' Pro Bowl pass catchers, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.

Boldin, who leads the NFL with 11 touchdown receptions, missed his second straight day of practice because of a left shoulder injury. With the Cardinals having clinched the NFC West division title, coach Ken Whisenhunt is weighing giving Boldin more time to recuperate by sitting him Sunday.

"Obviously, in this type of situation, where you have a [playoff] game two weeks away, you want to make sure you got as many of your guys available for that game," Whisenhunt told the Arizona media yesterday. "That's got to take priority."

Whisenhunt said the situation might be different if the Cardinals were fighting for a playoff spot.

Despite missing two games this season after undergoing surgery to repair fractures in his sinus and jaw stemming from a vicious hit by the Jets' Eric Smith, Boldin is the Cardinals' leading receiver with 89 receptions. He has 1,038 receiving yards, second on the team to Fitzgerald, who has 1,200 yards (on 88 catches).

If Boldin does not play, his spot would be taken by Steve Breaston, who has 71 receptions for 909 yards and two touchdowns. Breaston has started eight games this season, as Arizona frequently employs three-wide receiver sets. Jerheme Urban, who had three catches for 82 yards and a 50-yard TD last week, would take Breaston's spot as the third receiver.

"They are tough, not only the first two guys, but the quality of the whole group is really outstanding," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said earlier this week. "It is hard to zero in on one guy because they have all been so productive. They all can do some damage."

Running back J.J. Arrington also missed his second straight day of practice. Arrington is the team's top kickoff returner, averaging 25.7 yards with a 93-yard touchdown against Dallas, and is a change-of-pace back behind starter Tim Hightower.

"I think that both these guys want to play, and if they're ready to go, they'll play," Whisenhunt said. "But I think also, you have to be smart with that situation."

Light out again
Patriots left tackle Matt Light did not practice for the second straight day, calling into question his availability Sunday.

If Light, who hurt his right shoulder last Sunday against Oakland, can't play, the Patriots' options at left tackle would be to plug in Mark LeVoir, who subbed for Light last Sunday, or to move Nick Kaczur from right tackle and put LeVoir at right tackle. LeVoir started two games at right tackle when Kaczur was hurt. LeVoir, however, has had limited participation in practice this week because of an ankle injury.

Left guard Logan Mankins said it would be odd to play without Light, who hasn't missed a game since breaking his right leg in 2005.

"It would be a little different, but we're going to just get to work with the other guys this week," said Mankins. "I don't know Matt's status, and I don't know when we will. We'll figure that out when it happens."

Mankins said there were no problems with LeVoir last week. "He did a good job. He did everything we asked of him."

Britt on deck?
With Light and LeVoir dealing with injuries, the Patriots might have to active tackle Wesley Britt.

Britt has only played on special teams the two times he's been active this season. He started one game as a tight end for the Patriots last season against the Giants and made his only career start at right tackle against Cincinnati in 2006.

But the third-year tackle said he's ready if called upon.

"It's my job. It's what I get paid to do - to prepare every week to go on the field and to be ready to go on the field and perform," said Britt. "Whenever my number is called I have to be ready."

"We have all the confidence in the world in him," Mankins said.

Outside activities
With wintry weather expected Sunday at Gillette Stadium, Belichick has had the Patriots practicing outside this week.

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski said Belichick told the team at the beginning of the week it would be outside every day, instead of going into the Dana-Farber Field House, which the team has done at times this season to avoid cold or inclement weather.

"I think it definitely helps," said Gostkowski. "Whether it's cold, or windy, whatever it is, it's always good to get used to it in practice. The ball doesn't travel as far, so you have to see how you're going to kick it. It gets your blood thickened up a little bit. It always seems a bit easier in the games, especially because you have those heated benches. It's always good to make it tougher for yourself during the week so it seems easier on game day." . . . Linebacker Tedy Bruschi (left knee) and safety James Sanders (abdomen) missed practice, the fifth straight session they've missed . . . Arizona defensive end Travis LaBoy, who suffered ankle and elbow injuries in the Cardinals' loss to the Vikings last Sunday, hasn't practiced this week.

Mike Reiss of the Globe staff contributed to this report

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