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Friday, November 20, 2009
Stephen Neal's injury in focus

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots are holding their Friday practice inside Gillette Stadium, and offensive guard Stephen Neal was not present for the media-access portion of the session.

Neal was knocked out of last Sunday's loss to the Colts with a head injury. He has not taken part in any practices since.

If Neal can not play Sunday against the Jets, his starting right guard spot would most likely be filled by four-year veteran Dan Connolly. It also would likely result in rookie Rich Ohrnberger -- a center/guard -- being active for the first time this season as the top interior backup.

The Jets blitz more than any team in the NFL, so pass protection and overall rhythm in the passing game will be key for the Patriots. Neal's status ties into that, and will be something to monitor leading up to kickoff.

Linebacker Rob Ninkovich (sprained knee) and running back Fred Taylor (right ankle) were the other players not spotted at the media-access portion of Friday's practice. With defensive lineman Jarvis Green at practice for the first time since undergoing knee surgery during the team's bye week, it is a sign that he is close to a return. Outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain (rib, groin) was also on the field for the first time since being knocked out of Sunday's loss to the Colts.