Even at 6-8, Sands faces tall order

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Move over, Ted Washington. Make room, Steve Moore.

The Patriots' addition of ninth-year defensive lineman Terdell Sands
-- all 6 feet, 8 inches, 355 pounds of him -- introduced a new contestant into the competition for the largest player in team history.

Both Washington and Moore, each of whom stood 6-5, were imposing presences, and Washington at times pushed close to 400 pounds. But Sands probably would have challenged that mark if he had stepped on the locker room scale Thursday, and he's got the kind of height that the Celtics might covet in a power forward.

Yet even someone who sports a size-15 shoe would have some mighty big cleats to fill if the Patriots are without nose tackle Vince Wilfork for an extended period of time.

Sands was on the Patriots' radar before Wilfork sprained his left ankle in Sunday's win over the Falcons. After a visit to New England last week, Sands returned home to Chattanooga, Tenn., on Saturday to collect some belongings. Then he made the trek back to Foxborough on Sunday in anticipation of signing a contract; he ended up with a two-year deal.

Speaking to reporters Thursday for the first time since joining the team, Sands said it might take him a week or two to bone up on the playbook. But the Patriots might not be able to afford him that luxury. If Wilfork, who missed practice again Thursday, cannot suit up Sunday against the Ravens at Gillette Stadium, Sands could be thrust into action at either tackle or end.

"Whatever they ask me to play, I'll play," Sands said. "I have no preference. They told me I'd play some nose, a little defensive end, depending on the scheme for the week."

Sands said he's probably better known as a run-stopper, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick wouldn't commit when asked earlier this week what role he had in mind for Sands. The coach did admit Sands' long frame could fill up the middle, or be utilized to disrupt opposing passing games on the edge.

"We'll see how it goes," Belichick said. "He certainly has the frame to play end. He's tall and he's long and he's big. He's got the frame to play inside, too. It's rare to see a player that's that size, that athletic and that long. I think on paper he has some flexibility, whether that is actually the case in our defense or not, we'll have to wait and see."

While Sands garnered attention for punching former Raiders teammate Shane Lechler on a flight home from a game at Denver in November (Sands was not disciplined), he was easygoing during his chat with the media Thursday and even cracked some jokes in what was otherwise a pretty tight-lipped locker room.

Sands said he didn't hit his growth spurt until late in high school. But his size has been a hot topic since then. He said he's gotten so tired of being asked about his height that he printed up a shirt with "5-20" on it, finding a new way to express his height.

"You don't have to ask me no more, do your math," joked Sands. "You ask that question, you gotta do some thinking."

Sands, who was a seventh-round pick (243rd overall) of the Chiefs in the 2001 draft, didn't make his pro debut until 2003 with the Packers. He's logged 95 tackles and 4 sacks in 76 career games. He started 11 games for the Raiders in 2007 and appeared in all 16 games each of the past three seasons. He was one of Oakland's final cuts in September.

Sands waited patiently for the calls to come. New England was the only team he visited, although Cincinnati had expressed interest. Much like former Oakland castoff Randy Moss, Sands doesn't mind the change of scenery.

"That's Oakland, I don't know what to say about that," said Sands.
"You can see how the balance changes here, the difference between facilities. I haven't even been here a week, but just from the meetings, it's a little different here."

Sands said he's watched Wilfork from afar and likes the way he gets off the ball. But Sands has 6 inches and at least 30 pounds on him.

"You can learn things from everybody who plays that position," Sands said before slipping in another joke. "Especially when they're short and I can work on my knee bends."