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Notes: Fresh faces on Patriots roster

If you're keeping track of the Patriots roster, better write in pencil.

It's becoming quite a challenge to stay on top of all the comings and goings of late. The team continues to make moves to replace key players who've been injured and bolster position groups that have been depleted as a result.

In what has been the busiest week thus far, the Patriots brought in a couple more new players on Thursday, both of whom were recently released from by their former clubs.

Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson is a fifth-year veteran most recently with Atlanta, where the Falcons placed him on IR earlier this month with a hamstring injury. But with the Patriots thin at that position, they scooped up the 6-2, 210-pound pass catcher when the Falcons decided to release him outright.

Hankerson was wearing jersey number 15 during his first practice as a Patriot Thursday.

Meanwhile, offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, formerly of Detroit, has had more than his share of medical problems to overcome, the most recent being a knee injury which limited his productivity to the point that he went from a Lions starter to a healthy scratch in recent games.

Waddle originally made the Detroit roster in 2013 as an undrafted rookie from Texas Tech. He admitted that he was stunned by the Lions' decision to let him go.

"I was definitely surprised, but things worked out like they did and… I'm just blessed to be here, to be honest. I haven't been here before, but I've heard how the organization is and how things are run, just how first-class the Patriots are. Just being here a day, I see that and feel that already."

When asked about his current health condition, specifically his knee, Waddle insisted that he's "feeling good."

"Over time, I'm starting to feel better every day," he added. "I'm feeling like my old self. I think we're headed in that direction. I've got to keep progressing."

During his time in Detroit, Waddle was part of an offensive line that, at times, featured Michael Williams, the now-Patriots tight end who came to New England via trade late this summer.

"He's one of my best friends," Waddle revealed. "When he left Detroit, I was sorry to see him go, but to come here and be with him, it's good to have someone like that here. It's

been a little chaotic, going through the waiver process, not really knowing what was going to happen, then getting here. I did all that in 24 hours. Now I'm here and I'm ready to go."

Having a Ball

Another position that is in need of bodies is running back, where newcomer Montee Ball chatted up reporters for the first time today.

"Fresh legs right now, especially coming in this late in the season," the practice squad addition said with a smile. "[Head coach Bill] Belichick, he knows what he's doing, he knows what I'm capable of doing. So I'm going to show them what I can do."

Ball started last season as Denver's lead back, but injuries prevented him from hanging on to that spot for very long. He entered 2015 second on the Broncos depth chart, but sank to fourth by summer's end and eventually was waived.

"It was shocking when the Broncos let me go," the former second-round draft choice confessed, "but I believe everything happens for a reason. Given the opportunities I was given there in Denver, I can only look back on them and get better from them and move on. I think it's time to move on, and being a Patriot, you cannot complain at all.

"Wherever they want me, wherever they need me," Ball added, "I'm not in a position anymore to where I can say what I want to do, or where I want to be. It's wherever they want to put me. Whenever my number is called, I'm going to do what I can."

Here in Foxborough, Ball is being reunited with his college roommate at Wisconsin, fellow rusher James White, whom Ball described as being "extremely helpful."

"He's been everything I've needed for this transition."

Practice Report

Safety/co-captain Devin McCourty (right ankle) and linebacker Jonathan Freeny (right hand) did not practice for the second straight day, putting their availability for Sunday's game against Tennessee in doubt.

There was also no sign of oft-released linebacker Eric Martin, who was listed by the team on the injury report as having an illness.

Brady leads Pro Bowl voting

Tom Brady is popular among NFL fans nationwide, as more than 700,000 of them voted for him to represent the Patriots in next month's Pro Bowl. Brady has received more votes than any other NFL player. Tight end Rob Gronkowski came in a very respectable sixth, with close to 510,000 votes. DE Chandler Jones and placekicker Stephen Gostkowski were the leading vote-getters in their respective positions. 

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