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Ellison joins evolving defensive line

The young journeyman is the newest member of a position in flux.

You're home, ironing clothes, getting ready for Sunday church services. Suddenly, your cell phone rings and you know, before you even answer, that it must be good news because it's your agent on the other end.

How do you know?

Because if you're Atiyyah Ellison, you have a special ringtone assigned to his number.

"It's a cash register," the 6-3, 315-pound defensive lineman sheepishly giggled.

Ellison was recounting to reporters how he wound up in New England, with the team with the best record in the NFL, after having been out of work since late October. He said he'd been hoping another team would call, but began losing hope when the regular season ended.

How quickly his fortunes turned. With several players injured and another suspended (rookie Brandon Deaderick), the Patriots have been muddling through the past month with a makeshift defensive line. Ellison, in his third NFL season out of the University of Missouri, is the latest late-season addition.

"I've been working out and lifting and everything, but you're not going to be on the pace of the guys who are actually out here grinding each day," Ellison acknowledged. "But life happens too; I never got that much time to spend with my family, so I was enjoying that too."

It's been anything but a steady lifestyle for Ellison since he entered the league. New England is his seventh team, but perhaps his best opportunity, given where the Patriots are seeded in the playoffs.

The question remains, though, will Ellison make an immediate impact, like fellow d-lineman Eric Moorehas done, or flame out like Louis Leonarddid after a week in Foxborough?

"Well, we'll see," head coach Bill Belichickresponded. "We haven't had a lot of background with this player, so we'll see how it goes. We had a roster spot, so we brought in some players, took a lot at them, so we'll see how it goes.

Does the fact that he has had to learn so many systems in the league help him in terms of getting used to New England's 3-4 defensive scheme?

"I'm not sure about that. I mean, we've seen him play," Belichick added. "We had [Louis] Leonard in here and felt like making a change, so we brought in Landon [Cohen] and he's done a good job for us, and so that's worked out better than Leonard did. So, we'll see how this goes."

"Some 3-4s are pretty similar; it's just getting the language down," explained Ellison. "Teams may all run 3-4s, but the same word could mean something else to somebody else's defense."

Having been to tryouts so many times before, Ellison didn't even pack enough clothes for a long-term stay when he came to Gillette. But as he adjusts to his new life, he at least can rely on a couple of familiar faces. He played with long snapper Matt Katulain Baltimore and linebacker Tully Banta-Cainin San Francisco.

Wed 1/5 Practice Notebook

For news and notes from Wednesday's practice, please visit the PFW Blog.

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