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Different Jets this time around

The NFL season for most teams is a series of ups and downs. Many teams go through winning streaks, losing streaks and everything in between. Injuries play a key role in many of these changes and the Jets are a perfect example of a team that has come a long way since the opening month of the season.

New York kicked off 2003 by going 0-for-September, including a 23-16 loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Week Three. But a few months later the return of injured quarterback Chad Pennington and improved running game on offense, combined with a defense that has been solid for much of the year, has the Jets on a little late-season roll in which the team has won three of its last four and four of six.

"Looking at the Jets, this is a little bit of a different look than we had earlier in the year," Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday. "Defensively, they have had a number of personnel changes. Donnie Abraham is back. Tyrone Carter is in there at free safety. A couple of their outside linebackers like [Victor] Hobson and [Jason] Glenn are playing a little bit more. Josh Evans is back on the defensive line. [Bryan] Thomas is playing a lot at end. Offensively, of course, they had a change at quarterback with [Chad] Pennington. Curtis Martin is, I think, really running well. He looks good. Santana Moss is much more involved in the offense than he was earlier in the year. [They have] a number of new players, but it's a lot of the same schemes that we have seen before.

"I think that the Jets are playing well. They have won their last three at home and are coming off a shut out last week against Pittsburgh. They are still strong in the running game. Defensively, they are not really giving up very many points, which is of course the bottom line. They are overall sound in the kicking game. We have had a lot tough games with the Jets, none more so than the end of the year last year and were playing them at that same time. I am sure it will be, as it usually is, a tough division game on the road like they all are, especially against the Jets."

Walter speaks

New/old punter Ken Walter spoke with the media for the first time in weeks on Wednesday. Walter, who was cut prior to the Dolphins game, returned to the field for the Patriots last week and had one of his best games in recent memory. Walter punted four times against the Jaguars for 161 yards, a 40.3 average and 40.5 net average with three kicks inside the 20 and a long of 51.

Walter admitted it was nice to have a productive game in his first outing after rejoining the team.

"It's important to have a good day all the time," Walter said. "What's tough is that you are not always going to be 100-percent. If I punt six times there are going to be a few here and there, but you have to know how in the certain situations to come through and that's the most important thing. If felt good to be back out there and I just blocked a lot of things out and just tried to win the crowd back over and get them back on my side and it was good feeling. It was good to be out there. It's hard to watch it from the outside when you have to leave, but like I said I am pretty happy to be here and help this team win."

In the mix of new faces that have worked through the Patriots special teams in recent weeks, Walter has some familiarity with new long snapper Brian Kinchen.

"New long snapper, old long snapper," Walter said. "Kinchen and I worked together in Carolina. So I am very familiar with him and his body position and things like that and eye contact and things that are important that Lonie [Paxton] and I have both worked hard on in the past to be successful. I don't think we are going to miss a beat and even with [Sean] McDermott in here…we can't make it an issue. We have to just be in sync and do what we need to do to win football games because everybody here knows that it is going to come down to points at the end of the game. We need to be successful. We need to give Adam [Vinatieri] the best shot at it. So we'll do whatever it takes. We'll take 1,000 snaps if we have to and we'll get it done."

But one thing Walter feels has come in his second shot with the Patriots is a new outlook on life as an NFL punter.

"One thing I know is to not let the people that are in front of me right now [the media] dictate what happens to me in the future," Walter said. "I could really care less. I did let some things affect me, but that's only natural. When there is a huge pressure situation a lot of things can happen. I think I have a better mindset now then I did then. So it's a learning experience, this whole game is, and you guys know coming in here every day that you learn things every time. Things don't surprise you anymore and things never surprised me, but you just take them for what they are and try to stay as focused as you can and help your team win.

"I think it's just, like I said, in any pressure situation you can handle it in 10, 15, 20 different ways and now I know. It's a learning experience every time I wake up in the morning. Like I said I put a lot of pressure on myself as an individual in my own life and in my football life. I have to learn to just prioritize a little bit better and take a little bit of pressure off myself. I think that's what I have learned, when you are outside of it for a short amount of time and you get to watch your teammates you tend to learn a little bit."

And the fact that Walter has already been cut once this year means that the seven-year veteran can't have anything worse happen professionally this season.

"Exactly right," Walter said. "I don't think I really have to get into anything like that, but the first couple of days it was hard and then you realize you have a heartbeat and I have a family and no matter what anyone else thinks I can move on. I am pretty confident in my abilities. So I wasn't ready to hang it up and walk away from the game. I think I have much more to offer and like I said I wouldn't be back if things didn't look brighter or if I didn't clear my head. I think things are going to be good now and like I said I am just here to help the team win."

Injury report

The Patriots injury report grew to five players this week, led by long snapper Sean McDermott who is out and was placed on injured reserved with a shoulder injury. Safety Chris Akins (leg) and guard Damien Woody (flu) are questionable. Wide receiver Deion Branch (finger) and linebacker Ted Washington (neck) are probable. None of the injured players practiced on Wednesday.

For the New York the only player on the injury report is linebacker Sam Cowart. The veteran is listed as probable with a thigh injury after missing last week's game with the same ailment.

Notes

Richard Seymour laid to rest any potential controversy surrounding his unexpected reserve role in last Sunday's game at Gillette Stadium. When asked if there were any hard feelings between he and Belichick, Seymour said, "Oh no, not at all. I love him." … New long snapper Brian Kinchen will wear uniform number 46. … The AFC and NFC Pro Bowl rosters will be announced on Thursday. While the 12-2 Patriots are expected to send a handful of players, the exact number of New England representatives is still a mystery.

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