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Harrison fallout, Moss' return highlight busy Labor Day

For a holiday, there sure is a lot going on at Gillette Stadium today.

For starters, we're hearing for the first time from Patriots players and their head coach about the suspension of safety Rodney Harrison.

If you missed it during this long, Labor Day weekend, Harrison revealed to reporters late Friday that he has been using a banned substance during his rehab from several injuries. He admitted his actions (a violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy) to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and will miss the first four games of the season.

Harrison did not indicate what substance he actually used, saying only "I want to make it clear that not once did I ever use steroids."

"Of course, it's unfortunate," head coach Bill Belichick said during his daily press conference first thing Monday morning. "I thought that his statement, his comment was pretty thorough. I don't really have anything else to add to that. We'll see him when he gets back in four weeks."

Belichick was asked how he heard the news.

"I don't think it really matters," he replied.

What does matter is who will replace Harrison in the starting lineup this Sunday in the Meadowlands, when the Pats visit the New York Jets. All indications are that it will be third-year man James Sanders.

"Yeah, I'm prepared," the 5-10, 210-pounder said in front of his locker on Monday. "The coach is calling my number right now, and I'm ready to go."

Aside from admitted that he has spoken to Harrison since his transgression was made public, Sanders had little to say about the plight of his teammate.

"All I can say about the Rodney situation is we love him, we care about him, we hope everything goes well for him. Other than that, I'll let you talk to Bill or him about those questions."

Quarterback Tom Brady, who normally addresses the media on Wednesdays during the regular season, held his press conference a couple of days earlier than expected.

"I think everybody wishes he were playing," Brady said of Harrison, "but that's not the case. He's dealing with it, and the team's dealing with it, and we've got to find a way to move past it.

He was asked if Harrison's absence puts even more pressure on the Patriots offense to score points.

"Anytime you lose a player like that it strains other parts of the team, but hopefully we have enough good players to make up for it," Brady answered.

Moss miked up

Wide receiver Randy Moss was dressed in full pads for Monday afternoon's practice, his first on-field action since August 1st.

Prior to practice, he spent several minutes talking with reporters inside the Patriots locker room. The question on everyone's mind was, will Moss play this Sunday?

"My thing is, I want to play. Will I play, I don't know," Moss responded. When asked if he would play if given the green light, Moss said, "Yeah, of course. That's what I'm paid to do, is play football."

A reporter wanted to know if Moss' month-long absence from practice was more of an indication of how serious his injury (to his hamstring, apparently) was, or of how careful the training staff was being with him.

"I think that the approach has been to heal my leg up and not have [the injury] lingering throughout the season, by trying to rush me back. [The trainers] did a hell of a job of getting me rehabilitated and getting me back and getting me out to the practice field."

The playing field is where fans, teammates, and Patriots coaches want to see Moss next. And so does Moss.

"I really want to be a part of it, so, I'm just as anxious as they are," he declared. "The only thing I can say is, when I get out there, I will be out there ready to play.

"I don't cut checks, I don't shine shoes, I don't tape ankles … I play football," he continued. "I will not be satisfied until I'm out there with the boys."

There's only one other thing with which Moss is not entirely satisfied, at this point.

"The biggest thing is my playing shape and how it will affect me when I'm out there. That's the main thing that's worrying me, is how good a game shape I'm in. I don't want to do anything to slow the team down. If I'm out there slowing the team down, I'll pull myself out."

Monday Practice Notebook

Citing an unnamed NFL source, The Boston Globe is reporting that the Patriots have released WR Reche Caldwell. When asked about the alleged move, a team spokesman said Caldwell "is not here."

Caldwell's release could be an indication that a roster spot will be needed for CB Asante Samuel this Sunday. Samuel, who was suited up for practice Monday, returned to the Patriots last week, but has not been on the practice field until today.

DL Mike Wright and S Rashad Baker did not take part in Monday afternoon's session.

FB Kyle Eckel is reporting for duty once again. He's been signed to the team's practice squad. You may recall Eckel, a former Navy standout, played in the preseason with New England a few summers ago.

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