Waiting for the Patriots to call their numbers

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Talking before Wednesday's practice, his first full-pad session with the New England Patriots since returning to the practice field, rookie wide receiver Brandon Tate spoke of needing to keep his emotions in check.

Packing his travel bags for London on Thursday afternoon, Tate admitted it was difficult to do once he received word he would be part of the team traveling to Sunday's game against the Buccaneers.

"Man, I'm real excited. Real, real excited," Tate said. "I'm trying to stay focused on football, not let myself get too excited. I've been doing pretty good, staying focused and knowing my assignments."

Tate admitted he's a different type of sore after back-to-back days of full-pad sessions, his first real football activity in over a year since tearing both his MCL and ACL during his senior season at the University of North Carolina.

"It's good, getting back in the mix of football," Tate said. "It's taking some time, but I'm getting it. I'm going to watch the film, see what I did right and wrong, and just try to correct it. Keep getting better."

Tate did divulge that he's worked on both kick and punt returns in practice, something that would seem to add value to activating the third-round draft pick (83rd overall) if the coaching staff deems him healthy enough to come off the non-football injury list this week.

The team has up to three weeks to make that decision, but with rookie Julian Edelman sidelined with a forearm injury and the release of Joey Galloway earlier this week, there appears to be a need to add at least one receiver to the active roster.

Other candidates include first-year player Terrence Nunn, currently on the practice squad. He said it's been a solid week of practice and that he hasn't put any more pressure on himself than in past weeks.

Practice squad quarterback Isaiah Stanback was noncommittal when asked how his potential transition back to wide receiver was going. Stanback caught passes with the receiving corps during the portion of practice open to the media Thursday, suggesting he could be in the mix to join them.

Stanback appeared in eight games as a wide receiver for the Cowboys in 2008, catching two passes for 24 yards. He also has wide receiver experience at the college level.

"I've been on scout teams since I've been here," said Stanback, suggesting it might not be too abnormal for him to work with receivers. When pressed about whom he's worked as during scout work this week, Stanback would only say he's been rotating between players.

Asked what his role could be this weekend, he smiled and said "Whatever Coach says."

Tate summed it up for all three players.

"They told us to just prepare for whatever," he said. "You never know. They might call your number or they might not. When you go to the game, you just have to be ready for whatever."