Suddenly, Pats thin on receivers

October, 21, 2009
10/21/09
10:06
AM ET

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots were already a bit thin at wide receiver before Tuesday, when the team parted ways with veteran Joey Galloway and reports surfaced that rookie Julian Edelman will be sidelined with a broken arm sustained in Sunday's win over the Titans.

Suddenly, rookie Brandon Tate, eligible to come off the non-football injury list this week, and practice squad player Terrence Nunn are potential third or fourth receivers for the Patriots moving forward.

Tate, who played at the University of North Carolina, tore his ACL and MCL during his senior season with the Tar Heels. He was grabbed by the Patriots in the third round (83rd overall) in this year's draft and now faces lofty expectations for someone who returned to practice only Tuesday.

"We'll see. They say I got three weeks of practice, so we'll see what happens," Tate said. "I'm real happy [with my health]; I feel comfortable. I have the strength back in the knee after the injury. I'm ready to go."

Tate also is a return specialist who could help fill Edelman's void on kickoffs and punts. He is the NCAA career leader in combined kick-return yards with 3,523.

Could he be ready if called upon Sunday in London?

"If they give me the call, yeah," Tate said with a laugh. "I'll be ready. But first we'll see what happens today."

Directly across the locker room, Nunn found himself fielding similar questions. Coach Bill Belichick had noted in his news conference earlier that he reminds all practice squad players to be ready for game action each week.

Nunn said he hasn't been told whether he'll be traveling to London, but, like Tate, he's ready to step in if called upon.

"I just know I gotta keep working hard," Nunn said. "I'm going out there every day and trying to know what to do when the opportunity comes upon me. I know the plays. I know whenever I have the chance, I have to know what I'm doing."

Nunn went undrafted out of the University of Nebraska in 2008. He sat out all of last season before the Patriots signed him on May 11 of this year. He caught eight passes for 133 yards in the preseason and impressed throughout training camp.

Asked how he felt to make the practice squad at the start of the season, Nunn said: "I was actually very excited. From not being anywhere a year ago, I was just excited to have an opportunity.''

Both players said they've been leaning on veterans Randy Moss and Wes Welker to guide them. On Sunday, they could be lining up next to them.

Regardless of their lack of NFL experience, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is excited to see what both first-year players can do.

"I have confidence in all of our receivers. If you're on the roster and you have an opportunity to play, I have confidence," Brady said. "All of those guys have worked very hard, certainly with Wes and Randy. I don't have to worry about much with them. But Brandon is going to be out there, hopefully, and Terrence is going to be out there ... to see how they can go out there and perform. And hopefully they can go and do a good job."

Tate knows one key for him is earning Brady's trust and developing a chemistry, something Galloway failed to do in his short time in New England.

"It's a perfect situation," Tate said, noting the Patriots' need for receivers as he is eligible to return. "I already know the [system]; I just have to earn the coaches' trust and Tom's trust."

Tate admitted it's been frustrating at times, particularly when he's been relegated to watching film or working out in the weight room with no chance of suiting up on Sunday.

"The coaches, all they have to go on me is my college film. I gotta show them I still got it," Tate said. "It feels like it's been two-three years [that I've been away from football]. It's only been a year, but I've been working out for this -- upper body, lower body -- just getting ready to play football."

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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