How will safety group shake out?

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- How will the safety position shake out for the Patriots in 2010?

That was the question posed to six-year veteran James Sanders this morning at Gillette Stadium after he finished a workout in the team’s offseason program.

The personnel is deep, with Brandon Meriweather (2007 first-round draft choice), Patrick Chung (2009 second-round draft choice), Sanders and Brandon McGowan (2009 veteran free agent signing) headlining the depth chart.

“It’s going to be interesting,” said Sanders, who called the safety spot the deepest the Patriots have had since he arrived as a fourth-round draft choice in 2005.

“One thing about the four of us is that we all get along well. We’re all good friends. But at the same time, it’s competition. We’re all competing for spots on this team. No one is going to be bitter. Whoever is going to be on the field, it’s ultimately going to be the coaches’ decision, but we’re going to support whoever it is and help them as much as possible to help the team be successful.”

In a gesture that reflects that friendly competition, Sanders was a guest of Meriweather at this year’s Pro Bowl, with Meriweather flying him to South Florida on a first-class ticket.

Sanders, who had signed a three-year contract extension last season, had an up and down year for the Patriots in 2009 in terms of playing time.

He opened the year as a starter, was supplanted by Brandon McGowan, then earned his starting role back and was credited as a steadying presence down the season’s homestretch.

Asked if he was surprised that he is still with the club based on the way things unfolded, Sanders said: “To be honest, I don’t know what to think. I’m here and being here, I’m going to give it all I got each and every day, and prepare myself as much as possible for the upcoming year. I’m just going to try to go out and compete to the best of my abilities and try to win a spot on the team.

“Obviously, I’m not the type of guy who wants to sit on the sideline and watch the team. But at the same time, I’m not going to do anything to hurt the team. The only thing I can do now is continue to work as hard as possible and hopefully get that opportunity to go back on the field and produce like I know I can produce.”