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Patriot eye Fitzgerald, Peterson; Wed. notes

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On one side of the ball, you have Larry Fitzgerald. Since he entered the league in 2004, he's been among the NFL's elite receivers.

So, covering him can be… daunting, frightening, maybe even impossible?

"What's the best word that describes the toughest challenge?" cornerback Devin McCourty asked reporters when the subject came up Wednesday.

"He's one of the top receivers, if not the top, in the NFL. For us in the secondary, it'll be an incredible challenge this week. The biggest word for us is compete. Without a doubt, he's going to make some plays, but we have to challenge him each play because we know what he's capable of.

"He catches everything. You see a lot of throws to him, he's double-covered, sometimes three guys around, but he still catches the ball. He's smart. He knows the game, knows what to look for in defense. He's a veteran – put that together with his physical tools, that's what creates those great receivers in the league."

"He's made his name off being covered, but going up and catching the ball over guys," echoed safety Steve Gregory. "He's that type of receiver, regardless of whether a guy is in position or not, he has a way to change and move his body in the air to go get the ball, so we have to be ready for that."

This Sunday, Fitzgerald will visit Gillette Stadium with his Arizona Cardinals. Nickel corner Marquice Cole may not get a chance to match up with Fitzgerald one-on-one, but he's studying up just in case.

"He really has it all," raved Cole. "Runs good routes, is good blocking, incredible hands, downfield speed to get open. He's the total package."

Cole, who plays significantly on special teams, has more of a chance of squaring off against Patrick Peterson – Arizona's dual-threat cornerback and return specialist.

What makes Peterson so dangerous as a return man?

"Field vision, instincts. Great instincts, and fearless," added Cole. "He's back there trying to get every ball – bouncing, if guys are around him – he's trying to make a play at all times."

"He's fast enough to outrun people and he's strong enough to run through them if they don't get a good shot at him – even if they do get a good shot at him, the guy is 220 pounds," New England head coach Bill Belichick pointed out. "You have to tackle this guy and he's moving and he's fast. Catching him is a problem and then getting him down is a problem even if you catch him. He's instinctive, he's got good vision, he knows where the holes are and he sets things up.

"There are plenty of his long returns where they get shots at him. It's not like it just opens up and there he goes. He runs through arm tackles, shoulder tackles, guys that can't quite get there, he's through all that. And it doesn't slow him down either; you have to hit this guy."

"He's one of those guys," special teams co-captain Matthew Slater chimed in, "that every time he gets a chance to return a kick, he can take it the distance. We might lose a little sleep over this guy, because he's that talented. It has to be all 11 of us doing our job to try to contain this guy. A guy like this, you can't really shut him down, you have to hope to contain him. His size and speed combination, there really isn't a guy out there [like that] out there."

"Special teams, going out there against Peterson," Cole continued, "that's going to be a tough task for us to handle, but we're up for it."

How, exactly?

"Play through the whistle," Cole explained. "You can't think, 'Oh, the ball's on the ground, and we're close to it. He's going to let it go.' Because he'll get it on the bounce and try to make a play out of it."

For details about today's Patriots practice, please visit the PFW blog.

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