Quick hits from Patriots locker room

October, 12, 2011
10/12/11
12:40
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and observations from the Patriots' locker room this morning:

1. Defensive linemen Albert Haynesworth and Andre Carter, linebacker Dane Fletcher and offensive lineman Logan Mankins were a few players drawing bigger media crowds.

2. The biggest theme of the day was players talking about how they are playing an opponent they are not too familiar with, so the process of getting to know them is important. They are expecting a pop quiz from coach Bill Belichick at some point, which is often the case on weeks like these.

3. Offensive tackle Thomas Welch, who was waived on Monday, was back in the room. He cleared waivers and has returned to the practice squad. The Patriots had an open practice squad spot after promoting safety Ross Ventrone to the active roster on Saturday.

4. The three players on the team's physically unable to perform list -- running back Kevin Faulk and defensive linemen Brandon Deaderick and Ron Brace -- were all present. It's easy to see all three are champing at the bit to join practice, and they are eligible to do so starting next week. It will be interesting to see how Bill Belichick handles that roster management. Once a PUP player starts practicing, the team has three weeks to decide whether that player goes to the active roster, and it makes sense to think Belichick might stagger the timing for when/if he activates players on PUP.

5. Receiver and leading special teams tackler Matthew Slater reported that his hip, which he injured Sunday against the Jets, was feeling better. He doesn't think it should hold him back. On special teams, coverage players say the Cowboys run different type of schemes from what they've played against through the first five games.

6. Tight end Dan Gronkowski, who re-signed with the team Tuesday, came through quickly and said he had some catch-up work to do, so he plans to speak with reporters later in the week. Gronkowski will once again wear No. 82.

7. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski touched on kickoffs and how it seems more returners are taking them out this year, even when they are 7-8 yards deep in the end zone. Interesting discussion, because to some, moving the kickoff up 5 yards this year was thought to eliminate the return. That's not necessarily the case.

8. Offensive lineman Donald Thomas made the point that Tuesday was packed at the team facility, with many players coming in even though it was a day off. He said that has stood out to him about his time in New England -- player commitment is high.

9. Second-year defensive end Jermaine Cunningham dodged one interview request. As his role on defense has shrunk, he's apparently keeping a lower profile.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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