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Opportunities arise along D-line; Thu. notebook

New England's defensive line is yet another position having to rotate players in and out because of injuries. Plus, news from Thursday's practice.

Defensive end Ty Warren'srevelation last week that his groin injury will limit the number of snaps he'll take for the rest of the season is a bit of a mixed blessing.

Certainly, any coach would like to have a starter of Warren's caliber at full-strength. But the fact that he's able to play at all is welcome news.

Another silver lining may be that Warren's recent absence from practice and games (he returned against Oakland last Sunday) has led to increased playing time for backups Jarvis Green, Le Kevin Smith, and Mike Wright.

Warren indicated that his injury might cause him to be less effective against the pass than he is used to, which may continue to allow Green, Smith, and Wright to see action on obvious passing downs in the remaining games.

"Obviously, when a starter goes down, it gives guys like me and Le Kevin a chance to step in and play," Wright observed. "The rotation? I don't know. That's up to the coaches. As it showed, yeah, we played a lot more [in recent games]. It was an opportunity, but we're always ready."

Wright said his approach is always the same, no matter if a starter is injured.

"You never play to be like, 'Oh, well, he's playing this week, so, I'm not going to be as prepared.' You just go out there the same every week expecting to play the whole game."

"As far as being a backup, that's our job and that's what's expected of us," Smith noted. "I just want to go out there and keep the chain going."

Smith insisted that the high number of injuries the Patriots have suffered this season in not something he or his teammates dwell on during the heat of the battle.

"Well, you can't really focus on that. If somebody goes down, you've just got to look to the next man coming in. If you get too caught up in that, you're going to get hit with a big play."

He also acknowledged that he's had to be patient while waiting for his opportunity.

"I mean, I just look at what's in front of me … three first-round picks and nobody's a slouch. I just play my role. No use patting yourself on the back and getting a big head about it. Just went in and did the job."

"You know, good things come to those who work," added Wright. "If you're out there every day at practice showing the coach that you've gotten better and can get better off your mistakes, you're going to get your opportunity. That's one of the greatest things about this team - they give you opportunities to step in and show what you can do to help the team."

Wright has relished the opportunity to help at both inside and outside positions, having subbed for Vince Wilfork when the starting nose tackle left the Seattle game in the first quarter with a shoulder injury.

"Yeah, I've got to be ready for every single position on that d-line: first-, second-, third-down, fourth-down, goal-line … doesn't matter. But, yeah, when [Vince] went down, I had to step in. I experienced that my second year when he went down. Stepped in and played. Once you start playing, you just get a little more confident. It was a good experience for me."

At 6-4, 295, Wright is sort of a combination of Wilfork and Warren, in terms of size. Asked whether he is better against the run or the pass, Wright gave a conditional response.

"When I'm heavier, run, but when I'm lighter, probably the pass," he said with a laugh.

And right now?

"A little bit more on the pass. I feel a little bit more comfortable pass-rushing."

Which may be exactly what the Pats need given Warren's injury.

Cali-native Cassel ready for snow

During his weekly press conference, QB Matt Cassel, who hails from sunny southern California, was asked about having ever thrown a football in the snow.

"I did in practice," he conceded. "Not many going forward in a game, so, we'll see how it goes. I don't know what the weather is going to be Sunday, but in New England it could change in a heartbeat."

There's expected to be snow on the ground, at the very least, and possibly more falling on Sunday. And with a road trip to frigid Buffalo on the horizon, Cassel and the Pats are doing everything they can to get acclimated to the wintry elements – including forgoing practicing in their indoor facility and staying outside this week.

Cassel told reporters he welcomed the chance to practice outside.

"It was good. The last few weeks we've really stayed outside, tried to get used to the cold weather and the environment. We've got to prepare for that going on the next few weeks and, hopefully, moving on after that. It's always good to get out there and get to practice in those types of elements."

Thursday locker room/practice notebook

On a sunny, but chilly day here in Foxborough, the Pats stayed outdoors, this time going from the Gillette Stadium FieldTurf (where they practiced yesterday) to the grass of their practice fields.

Three players were absent from the start of practice, the same three as yesterday: safety James Sanders, LB Tedy Bruschi, and LT Matt Light.

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