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Thursday, January 10, 2013
In rarity, Pats have all starters intact

By Field Yates

After 16 regular-season games, there likely isn't a Patriots player feeling 100 percent. Countless hours on the practice and game field add up to significant soreness this time of the year for all players, on all teams.

But while the Patriots probably don't feel 100 percent, and while they've deal with a number of injuries this season, the team is in good health overall. Yes, the Patriots listed 20 players on the official injury report on Wednesday, but many of those were due to injuries that players have been managing for much of the season, and only three of those players sat out Week 17.

Consider this: All 22 of the Patriots' Week 1 starters remain on the active roster, which leaves them as the only team of the eight remaining playoff clubs that can say that. Every other playoff contender has at least one player who started for them in Week 1 who is no longer on the active roster, be it due to injury, release or another reason. (An examination of old game books suggests that 2012 is the first playoff run the Patriots have had under Bill Belichick since the 2001 season that all 22 Week 1 starters remain on the active roster).

So while the Patriots have dealt with injuries to critical players such as tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, plus guard Logan Mankins and defensive end Chandler Jones, they've also been fortunate from a long-term injury respect. In fact, the only starting lineup changes from Week 1 to Week 17 was Brandon Deaderick replacing Kyle Love at defensive tackle, and Danny Woodhead starting at running back in place of Stevan Ridley.

This Sunday will mark the first game since Week 7 that it seems like a safe bet leading up to it that the Patriots will have both Gronkowski and Hernandez on the field at the same time, and if defensive end Rob Ninkovich and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard are able to play, the Patriots will be in very good shape from a health standpoint.