New England Patriots: Matt Light

Light: 'Never believed in' Hernandez

June, 27, 2013
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Patriots players have been mum on the murder charges their now-former teammate Aaron Hernandez faces, but one of his prominent former teammates made a comment that stands out.

Retired offensive lineman Matt Light made clear his thoughts on Hernandez’s character in talking with the Dayton Daily News.

“I never talk about other guys, but I will say I have never embraced -- never believed in -- anything Aaron Hernandez stood for,” Light said.

Faulk, Light: Looking forward to Sunday

January, 18, 2013
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Matt Light and Kevin Faulk, who will serve as honorary captains for the Patriots this Sunday for the AFC Championship Game, met with local media on Friday.

"To have the opportunity to do this, and know the guys that have done it in the past like Ty (Law), (Tedy) Bruschi and Drew (Bledsoe), it's an honor," Faulk said. "You never think about what's going to happen at the end when you're playing football. I never thought I was going to play 13 years in the NFL, and to accomplish the accomplishments that we accomplished as a football team, and to see this organization still on that same path after so many years, it just speaks volume to that organization, the players, the coaches, just everybody around. Once again I'd like to say thank you for the opportunity to Mr. Kraft and the Patriots' organization."

"To have the Kraft family honor us in this way, to share this special moment at this time of the year when everybody is amped up, it's truly a blessing," added Light. "And as Kevin said, the time that I've spent here, the time that Kevin spent here, you look back on it and you say as an organization, as a coaching staff and as the guys you play with, as all those things were combined to form what we experienced, it doesn't get any better. And we really appreciate it, and we're really looking forward to it."

Light: 'Life is a lot more relaxed'

December, 10, 2012
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It's being billed as one of the biggest games of the 2012 NFL season, but tonight's contest between the Houston Texans and New England Patriots also will include a halftime ceremony honoring former Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light, who retired last spring.

Light was Tom Brady's blindside protector for virtually all of the quarterback's career until this season, starting 153 regular-season games over 11 seasons.

Prior to tonight's game, Light took time to reflect on the first few months of his retirement.

"My life is a lot more relaxed," Light said. "For me, it's been great to just be able to spend time with family and friends and do all the things that, as (Patriots coach) Bill (Belichick) says, you put in a drawer while the season's going on and you tend to it afterward.

"Well, I've opened that drawer up, and I've had a lot of fun exploring those neat things that maybe I've missed out on over the years. But I definitely miss a lot about the game. You're reminded about how special all those times were when you try to find something that's as fulfilling or as challenging in the 'real world.'"

Podcast: Matt Light on Mike and Mike

October, 5, 2012
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Former Patriots offensive lineman (and current ESPN NFL analyst) was on the debut of ESPN Radio in Boston (850 AM) with Mike and Mike this morning from Foxborough. Light talked about the Patriots' offensive line play against the Bills, why the running game is important (on both sides of the ball) and how he would evaluate the Patriots a quarter of the way through the season.

Listen to the podcast HERE.

Camp Confidential: New England Patriots

August, 9, 2012
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- You would think there was a playoff game at Gillette Stadium this week.

Patriots logoIn front of a packed house, the New England Patriots hosted the New Orleans Saints for a pair of high-quality joint practices. Even famous musician Jon Bon Jovi and supermodel (and Tom Brady's wife) Gisele Bundchen showed up for a glimpse of the action.

The talent on the practice field was immense. You had future Hall of Famers Brady and Drew Brees at quarterback, Pro Bowl tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham and two hungry defenses eager to improve. The tempo was fast and intense.

The Patriots could have easily practiced against themselves this week like the rest of the league. But there is a method to Bill Belichick's madness. It's Super Bowl or bust for New England. And even in August, the Patriots want to test themselves as much as possible against another playoff contender.

"We know that there are a lot of other great organizations and teams and players and coaches out there," Belichick explained. "It’s a good challenge every week, and certainly the Saints are one of the top teams in professional football. As I said, they're well-coached, they have great talent, good players, good scheme [and] they win a lot of games. We played against them two years ago, practiced against them two years ago in their championship season. There isn’t any team we have more respect for than the Saints from top to bottom."

The reigning AFC champions are loaded. Their roster is deeper and more talented than last year's team that finished 13-3. With the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL, the Patriots are expected to match or surpass last season's win total. Some pundits even believe a 16-0 regular season is within reach. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.

THREE HOT ISSUES

1. How much better is the defense? The Patriots' defense has improved. New England was ranked 31st in total defense and 31st against the pass in 2011. So the Patriots cannot get much worse.

The Patriots invested all their draft picks except a seventh-rounder in defense. The biggest coups were first-round picks Dont'a Hightower at linebacker and defensive end Chandler Jones. Both rookies received a lot of reps with the first team this week and appear to be learning fast. They also provide athleticism and aggressiveness to New England's front seven.

Second-round pick and defensive back Tavon Wilson also has looked better than advertised. Belichick received a lot of criticism for drafting Wilson that high when most projected him to be a fifth- or sixth-round pick. Free agent Steve Gregory also is New England's starting safety and is an upgrade over the rotating door New England had at the position last year.

With a high-powered offense, the Patriots don't need a top-10 defense. But if the defensive-minded Belichick can get this group in the top 20, New England will be very hard to beat.

"We're just trying to be aggressive and be competitive in everything out there," Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty said of improving. "From the front all the way throughout the secondary, guys are just trying to develop an attitude. Defense has a lot to do with attitude and how you approach the game, so we’re trying to keep attitude and trying to do it day in and day out."

[+] EnlargeNate Solder
Stew Milne/US PresswireSecond-year left tackle Nate Solder has shined early in Patriots training camp.
2. Who will man the offensive line? It is difficult to gauge the performance of the offensive line in training camp. About half of training camp practices are in shorts, and that significantly reduces contact in the trenches. But replacements need to be ready because four of New England's starters from last year are injured, retired or contemplating retirement.

New England's offensive line is a M.A.S.H. unit. Starting guards Logan Mankins (knee) and Brian Waters (personal reasons) have yet to practice with the team, and starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer has a back injury. Longtime starting left tackle Matt Light retired, and so did free-agent signee Robert Gallery.

The Patriots are trying to find the right combination up front in training camp in preparation for Week 1 of the regular season. So far, the best lineman in camp has been second-year left tackle Nate Solder, who gained some starting experience last year in his rookie season.

Holdovers such as guard Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell and Marcus Cannon are all trying to carve out roles -- at least until starters Mankins, Vollmer and (maybe) Waters return. Brady and the Patriots will pass the football a lot this year, so development of the offensive line is important.

"We're going to play whoever is here, and whatever happens, we're going to be here working hard," Solder said this week.

3. Who will run the football? Dependable tailback BenJarvus Green-Ellis bolted to the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency. That leaves second-year tailbacks Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen trying to pick up the slack in 2012. Neither player has much experience. Ridley did pretty well in limited playing time his rookie year, amassing 441 yards and a touchdown. Vereen was injured most of his rookie season and wasn’t a factor.

Ridley has the inside track and has looked impressive. He has good vision and burst. Ball security has been the only question. But Ridley believes he made rookie mistakes that he will fix in Year 2.

"This year I'm going to go and do the best that I can to keep the ball high and tight," Ridley said. "I know that if I can keep the ball in my hands, I'm going to be on the field. So my work is cut out for me."

Backup running back Danny Woodhead also will assist Ridley and Vereen, particularly on third downs.

Reason for optimism

This is the best collection of talented skill players Brady has ever had. If everyone stays healthy, I do not see any reason the Patriots cannot be near the top of the league in scoring and passing offense. New England should average at least 30 points per game.

Brady has a Pro Bowl tight end in Gronkowski, a Pro Bowl receiver in Wes Welker, a top-five tight end in Aaron Hernandez and a much-needed deep threat in Brandon Lloyd. The Patriots' passing game should be able to do it all. Brady can go underneath to Welker and Gronkowski or deep to Lloyd and Hernandez. It will be very difficult for opponents to game plan.

"We're not taking anything for granted," Brady said. "We're trying to come out and string practices together."

Reason for pessimism

I'm still not confident in New England's secondary. This was the weakest part of the Patriots last year, and 2012 could be a repeat.

Cornerbacks McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Sterling Moore and Ras-I Dowling all have question marks. The Saints’ offense had their way with New England’s corners during this week’s joint practices. No one among the Patriots’ corners made enough plays to really stand out.

Perhaps the biggest problem is New England's corners are not shutdown, man-to-man defenders. That forces New England to play a lot of zone to try to get stops. That leads to a bend-but-don’t-break mentality we saw last year.

Expect many opponents to attack New England's cornerbacks until this group proves it can cover and shut down receivers consistently.

OBSERVATION DECK

    [+] EnlargeAaron Hernandez
    AP Photo/Robert E. KleinNot many tight ends have the athletic ability to be a punt returner. The Patriots' Aaron Hernandez does.
  • Speaking of McCourty, he is playing exclusively at corner in training camp. It shows the coaching staff is comfortable that McCourty will bounce back from a shoulder injury and poor play that led to a position change to safety late last season. McCourty is competing hard and trying to get back to his rookie form, when he made the Pro Bowl in 2010.
  • How athletic is Hernandez? New England is experimenting with its No. 2 tight end at punt return and running back. Hernandez did a good job running the football in the Patriots' playoff win over the Denver Broncos. It was a nice wrinkle added by Belichick. Hernandez is elusive in the open field and has good hands, so returning punts could make sense as another way to get the ball into Hernandez's hands.
  • I'm not sure why more teams do not have joint practices in training camp. Both the Patriots and Saints gave rave reviews of how well things went this week. It was well organized; both teams got a lot of work done; and there were no injuries. Most importantly, it is a change of pace from hitting your teammates the entire summer. In talking with players, they got a kick out of practicing against an unfamiliar opponent.
  • The Brady-to-Lloyd combination is still a work in progress. Brady missed Lloyd on several opportunities this week, as the first-time teammates continue to work on their chemistry. Lloyd is the best deep threat Brady has had since Randy Moss. Brady and Moss got on the same page quickly in their first season together. Brady hopes for the same results with Lloyd.
  • Keep an eye out for undrafted rookie defensive end Justin Francis. I wasn't familiar with the Rutgers product before my training camp visit, but after a few practices, I noticed Francis stood out. Francis has a good motor and athleticism for a defensive end. Francis is a sleeper pick to make New England's 53-man roster, but he must show that he can translate his play on the practice field to the preseason games.
  • The No. 2 quarterback race between Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett favors Hoyer at this stage of camp. Hoyer had a solid week of practice leading into Thursday's preseason opener. Hoyer was more accurate and made some nice throws. Mallett has a lot of physical ability but has a lot to work on. He had trouble with taking some of the velocity off his passes when needed. The preseason games will matter most, but Hoyer has the lead so far.
  • Linebacker Bobby Carpenter has been a pleasant surprise for New England. The former first-round pick has underachieved at his previous stops in Dallas, Miami and Detroit. But Carpenter has fit in well as a backup linebacker for the Patriots in training camp and is in good shape to make the team. Carpenter even got a little work with the first team this week because of injuries.

Light puts hype in perspective

January, 11, 2012
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Stew Milne/US PresswirePatriots LT Matt Light.



FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Leave it to Matt Light to put a unique spin on all the hoopla surrounding this week's Patriots-Broncos clash.

"No, I’m never surprised at what gets talked about any more," Light said when asked if he was surprised by all the hype around Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow and Saturday's Divisional round clash at Gillette Stadium. "I think I saw a seven-minute [television] piece on a girl that ate M&M’s while doing a handstand. And that was interesting; I got into it for a while. I just think that, any time there’s anything new -- and [Tebow is] obviously new -- he’s done some incredible things this season, I think the hype is justified. I think when you go out and lead a team like that, make the kind of plays that they are making, people are going to talk about you.

"I think we’ve always done one good thing here and that’s staying within our own locker room, staying within the framework of what we have to do and not get caught up in all that stuff. Hopefully that won’t be a factor."

Playoff stalwarts, the Patriots aren't exactly the sexy team any more, even as the top seed in the AFC after compiling a 13-3 regular-season record. First-game playoff exits their last two playoff appearances maybe naturally leaves New England's opponent in focus entering this weekend, but those struggles resonate with Light and his teammates that have been around for the overwhelming success last decade.

"Obviously, we haven’t done well -- well enough," he said. "So it sits in all of our minds, the guys that have been here, been a part of that [success]. You work that much, you put that much time into a season. You have success to a degree during the regular season, and then you go out and you can’t get it done in the postseason, that’s a difficult thing to swallow. I think that’s why guys you put a little more time in, a little bit more effort in. Hopefully you get a better outcome. And we’re working hard towards that. We’ve had a heck of a run through the regular season, had a lot of guys step up, and make a lot of plays to put us in this position. Now we gotta do something with it."

A few more highlights from Light's 10-minute Q&A with reporters on Wednesday:

* On Bill Belichick's week-to-week approach: "I’d say consistency, just his ability to stay focus to the nth degree, and to do that repetitively, week in and week out. It’s not an easy thing, obviously, running the team and putting up with a lot of guys like myself and the rest of the knuckleheads in that locker room, but I think coming in, setting that example with our entire coaching staff and how he approaches everything, it makes it easier for us to all fall in line."

* On offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien: "We’ve gone through some transitions, whether it’s Charlie [Weis] or Josh [McDaniels], then obviously Billy. I think Coach O’Brien’s done just a phenomenal job of handling the roles and responsibilities that come with being a coordinator, and really jumping into it from Day 1. He does a great job of getting us prepared, gives us great keys each week, the things that we have to do offensively. He really understands the game. He understands our entire offense. Obviously, it will be tough to lose him, but we’ve got some more battles yet to play out, and he’s in it for the long haul. So he’ll be good to go."

* On lessons learned from the first meeting with Denver: "I think we learned a lot from that first meeting. They are very talented group up front. They are all very active -- doesn't really matter what package they have in personnel wise. They present a lot of problems for pretty much everyone they’ve faced. I think having a little bit of experience, going through that [first game] -- albeit being a different situation being at home now -- [and] having gone up against them and see some of the things they’ve thrown at us, some of the things they’ve done since. We’ve got a lot to work on, but it’ll definitely be a big challenge for us."
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Matt Light

Light & the O-line: 'They're fighters'

October, 20, 2011
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made reference to left tackle Matt Light being injured during the team's winning drive in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 20-16 triumph over the Cowboys at Gillette Stadium. It turns out Light got rolled up on when Brady executed a third-down quarterback sneak to move the chains with little more than a minute to play.

Light Ankle Injury

Light could be seen squirming in pain after the play and then he grabs at the right ankle before hobbling back towards the huddle (but the Patriots were in no-huddle mode and already lining up for the next play). With time ticking down, Light played two more snaps and did enough to hold off linebacker DeMarcus Ware as Brady completed two more passes. Patriots coach Bill Belichick called timeout right before Aaron Hernandez's 8-yard touchdown grab and Brady noted how the team put Logan Mankins in help for Light to prevent Ware from getting to the quarterback.


"I think [coach Belichick] was concerned with Matt [Light] because he knew he was hurting," Brady said Sunday. "He wanted to make sure that we had DeMarcus Ware under control. We helped [Light] out with the protection to give us a little more time and Logan helped out on that, too. It was good. As usual, Coach was right."

Veteran guard Brian Waters expanded on Light's gutsy effort on Wednesday before the team broke for five days during the bye week.

"I actually saw him get rolled up on the quarterback sneak," said Waters. "I saw him getting up very slowly. But he did a great job of surviving. That’s one of those things, where the adrenaline is pumping and you're doing what you need to do. One thing I found out about these guys: They're all fighters. That’s something that showed up, it was very evident in that situation."

Light sat out the team's final practice of the week on Wednesday. The Patriots do not have to turn in an official injury report during the bye week, but one would assume the break was related to getting that ankle healthy.
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Matt Light

Heavy reps remain key for Light

August, 31, 2011
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Stew Milne/US PresswireMatt Light at work for the Patriots.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Even with 10 NFL seasons under his belt, New England Patriots left tackle Matt Light stressed Tuesday that reps remain integral to preparing him for the regular season.

"Regardless of how many times you've done it, repetition is really what gives you that confidence, it gives you the ability to go out there and do what you do," Light said while tackling football questions before the Patriots' Kickoff Gala at Gillette Stadium. "Some guys can go out there, walkthrough it and it just probably happens for them; Others like myself, I need the reps. It feels good to be back out there."

Light engaged in his first action of the preseason Saturday in Detroit, playing two series at left tackle before being replaced by rookie Nate Solder.

"It was good to be back out there," said Light. "The preseason is all about fine-tuning all the little things and doing what you gotta do. No matter how long you’ve been doing it, it’s always good to go out there and get those reps when it’s a game that you can work on all those little things. Obviously, it didn’t go the way we wanted it to as a team, overall, but for a lot of us, it was a chance to get out there, take a few more reps, get in tune with everything, and keep building for what's going to be eventful, long season, like it always is."

After a summer of uncertainty, Light inked a two-year, $12 million deal to return to New England. He acknowledged earlier in training camp that Solder will one day take over "for these old bones," but Light's veteran presence continues to anchor an offensive line in charge with keeping quarterback Tom Brady clean.

Light, who has missed only 20 games over his career, 13 of which came in one season, said he's feeling about as good as he can at this stage of his career.

"I feel pretty good," said Light. "I don’t know how fine you can feel at [age] 33 and 10 years in the National Football League, but yeah, I feel good."
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Matt Light

Report: Light, Patriots strike deal

August, 1, 2011
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Tackle Matt Light and the Patriots have agreed on a two-year contract, according to the Boston Globe.

Light, a 10-year veteran who has spent his entire career with New England, was an unrestricted free agent. He has made three Pro Bowls and won three Super Bowls.

Talking about Light this morning, director of player personnel Nick Casserio said, “Matt’s been a good player for us for a long time. I’d say there are discussions that are ongoing. I don’t want to put a timetable on it, but Matt’s made a lot of contributions to this team, he’s been a good player, so we’ll see what happens.”

For more on Light's reported new deal, click here.

Light: We needed to make more plays

January, 27, 2010
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video New England Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light talked to ESPN’s Trey Wingo about what the team needs to improve most this offseason.

“The biggest thing that we need to do is spend more time around each other,” Light said. “It’s a totally different group. ... I think for the most part we’ve got a good core group of leaders, veterans that have been around for a long time but then there’s all these other guys, that fit into the rookie category, first or second year with the team. We need them to step up, as well as the leaders we have now, and really be more mentally sound.

"There are a lot of instances in those games where had we made one critical play at one specific moment it would have turned things around. We used to be able to do that on a consistent basis. Those are the things we’ve got to get back to.”

Light also touched on the fourth-and-2 call, the Super Bowl and more in the nine-minute interview. Watch the entire conversation above.

Why the Pats rotated at left tackle

December, 1, 2009
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In his regularly scheduled interview on sports radio WEEI, coach Bill Belichick explained why the Patriots rotated at left tackle in Monday's 38-17 loss to the Saints.

"We just weren't sure about Matt [Light] playing all the plays in the game," Belichick said, as Light was playing for the first time since injuring his knee Oct. 11. "I thought Matt did a nice job. He hasn't played in several weeks and to throw him back in there for every snap, what we didn't want to do was get into a situation at the end of the game -- in a close game -- that he would kind of run out of gas. So we tried to spell him and give him a break in there along the way."

The Patriots inserted Mark LeVoir at left tackle for a few series each half.

"Mark did a good job, Matt did a good job, Nick [Kaczur] held up pretty well over there [at right tackle]," Belichick said. "I thought Light, for as much time as he missed and the quality of rusher Will Smith is, I thought he did a nice job over there."

Light: 'We got handled in every aspect'

December, 1, 2009
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NEW ORLEANS -- No one on the Patriots knows better the potential of Drew Brees than offensive tackle Matt Light, who was in charge of protecting the quarterback's blind side at Purdue.

Brees completed 18 of 23 passes for 371 yards with five touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating in New Orleans' 38-17 triumph over the Patriots Monday night at the Superdome.

"They're obviously hitting on all cylinders," said Light. "Drew does what Drew does. I was able to witness that for a number of years. He's got that offense running really well and they were definitely able to make a lot of plays. We got handled in every aspect and we've got to do better."

Light, who returned to game action for the first time since injuring his knee in a Week 5 loss at Denver, admitted it was nice to get back on the field, but it wasn't much of a silver lining considering the lopsided loss.

With Sebastian Vollmer sidelined with a head injury, Light was thrust back into his starting role at left tackle and split time with Mark LeVoir as part of a rotation at that spot.

Light was on the field for both of Laurence Maroney's touchdowns runs -- the only two times the Patriots found the end zone.

"We didn't execute when we needed to execute on offense," said Light. "[The Saints] went out and kept putting points on the board. They put a lot of pressure on us to get out there and make plays and we obviously came up short."

Light said the secret to turning things around was simple.

"Hard work, man. Guys go out there and do more," said Light. "As a team, we have to put a better outing out there in a hurry. I'm confident we have guys that can do that, so we'll get after it."

Inactive analysis

November, 30, 2009
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Rookie left tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who sustained a head injury in last week’s game, is not active for tonight’s contest against the Saints. Veteran Matt Light is likely to return to the starting spot at left tackle as he is active for the first time since injuring his right knee Oct. 11.

With rookie receiver Julian Edelman the third quarterback, if he plays before the fourth quarter that would mean that Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer – the top two quarterbacks – are ineligible to play. So it will be a limited role for Edelman (forearm injury) tonight.

Meanwhile, running back Sammy Morris is active for the first time since injuring his knee Oct. 18 and defensive lineman Jarvis Green is active for the first time since undergoing knee surgery during the bye week. That should help the Patriots in the run game -- offensively and defensively.

A couple of more points of analysis from the Patriots’ inactive players:

1) Linebacker Junior Seau, whose pre-game speeches have motivated players in recent weeks, is inactive for the first time since signing with the team. That thrusts Eric Alexander one notch up the depth chart behind Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton at inside linebacker.

2) With defensive backs Kyle Arrington and Shawn Springs inactive, the Patriots have Jonathan Wilhite, Leigh Bodden, Darius Butler and Terrence Wheatley as their top corners. Wheatley gets the nod over Springs because of his special teams contributions (e.g. kickoff returns).

As mentioned in an earlier post, the Saints are without starting cornerbacks Jabari Greer (groin) and Tracy Porter (knee), which is a major development against the Patriots' 1-2 combination of Randy Moss and Wes Welker.

Former Patriot Randall Gay and rookie Malcolm Jenkins are expected to start.

The Patriots figured to spread the field and test the Saints' depth at corner regardless, but this could lead them even more so in that direction.

Vollmer's injury status in focus

November, 28, 2009
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass., -- The Patriots are practicing inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon and rookie left tackle Sebastian Vollmer was not present for the start of the session, casting doubt on his availability for Monday's game in New Orleans.

Vollmer sustained a head injury in last Sunday's win over the Jets, although he returned to action in that game.

Vollmer, who did not practice Friday, has started the team's last five games.

If Vollmer does not play Monday, veteran Matt Light would likely slide back in at left tackle. Light has been out since injuring his right knee in the second half of the team's loss in Denver Oct. 11, but appears close to a return. Swing tackle Mark LeVoir is another possibility.

Veteran running back Fred Taylor (ankle) was the other player not spotted at the start of practice, while rookie receiver Julian Edelman (forearm) returned after missing Friday's session.

Mixed news on OL injury front

November, 27, 2009
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass., -- There was mixed news regarding injured Patriots offensive linemen Friday, as starting right guard Stephen Neal (head) was participating at the start of practice while rookie left tackle Sebastian Vollmer (head) was not present.

Furthermore, starting right tackle Nick Kaczur, who played through what appeared to be an ankle injury in Sunday's win over the Jets, looked like he was battling through pain.

Although nothing is set in stone, Mark LeVoir worked at right tackle, while Matt Light was at left tackle.

With a noisy environment expected Monday night, the Patriots' offensive line will be tested while working with a silent snap count. The unit's makeup figures to be an important pre-game storyline.

Neal did not play last Sunday against the Jets, while Vollmer was injured during the game but returned to action.

Rookie receiver Julian Edelman (forearm), running back Fred Taylor (ankle) and Vollmer (head) were the three players not spotted at the start of practice, which was held inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse.

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