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Let it snow: Pats practice in the elements

As if on cue, when the New England Patriots set foot on the Gillette Stadium FieldTurf for practice late this morning, snowflakes began to fall.

Head coach Bill Belichick had moved practice up a bit in advance of the approaching snowstorm, which is expected to dump several inches on New England this Thursday. It's only the first of two big storms that could pound the region by Sunday, when the Pats host the New York Jets at 1 o'clock.

"We're practicing. Whatever we get, we get. Whatever it is, it is," Belichick said less than an hour before the snow began to fall. Getting used to that the footing on a snowy FieldTurf surface could help the Patriots come Sunday, when more snow is expected.

"I think you certainly have to be aware of it," Belichick said of the elements.

"When you're playing in the Northeast and at this time of year, you have to be ready for the different elements. I think my experience has been you have to be careful about going overboard one way or the other this far in advance, on Tuesday when you do the game plan or Wednesday when you put it in, because a lot can change between now and Sunday.

"We usually don't talk to the team about that until either the day of the game or, in this case it's a 1:00 game, so maybe the night before. But I've made that mistake before, the night before telling the team, "We're going to be playing in a foot of snow." You wake up the next morning and it's 50 degrees and sunny and they look at you like, 'What a moron you are. Why did we go through that?'

"But in the end, no matter what the conditions are, our opponent is the Jets. No matter what the situation is, weather-wise on Sunday, we have to do a good job against the New York Jets."

Once they did get out to practice Thursday, only two players were missing: OL Billy Yates and DL Mike Wright. After stretching, the team worked on their kick return unit.

As we had seen last season, RB Laurence Maroney was inserted into the rotation for kick returns, along with CB Ellis Hobbs, RB Kevin Faulk, WR Wes Welker, and WR Chad Jackson.

Seven players were awarded the practice-player-of-the-week black jerseys: Jackson, QB Matt Cassel, DB Brandon Meriweather, OL Ryan O'Callaghan, LB Chad Brown, CB Tim Mixon, and S Ray Ventrone.

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