Adalius Thomashas made remarkable strides in his second year with the Patriots. The 6-foot-2 linebacker is back at his customary position on the outside and wreaking havoc on opposing offenses.
He's also become a vocal leader.
"He's always stood up for us. That's first and foremost," cornerback Ellis Hobbstold the Boston Globe.
Hobbs returned to practice after missing Wednesday's session with a shoulder injury and nose tackle Vince Wilforkabsorbed a $35,000 fine for his hit on Jay Cutler.
Hobbs acknowledges that cutting back his workload would preserve his health, but he enjoys contributing on special teams.
"I'm going to continue to do it," Hobbs told the Globe.
The Patriots realize in order to beat the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday they'll need to establish their running game. The potential return of LaMont Jordancould give them a boost.
"He's a force when he's in there," fullback Heath Evanstold the Boston Herald.
The Colts are expecting a boost of their own with the imminent return of running back Joseph Addai.
"He's an explosive runner," linebacker Mike Vrabeltold the Providence Journal.
Sunday's game lacks the same hype from last year's match-up, but neither side is taking this one lightly – especially the Colts, who are 3-4 entering Week 9.
"It's always a big game," defensive lineman Richard Seymourtold the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
One player who could be a factor is kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who was named the AFC's Special Teams Player of the Month for his prowess on field goals and kickoffs.
"There are days when you go out there and you feel like you can't kick it anywhere you want it to go, and there are days when you feel like you can't miss," Gostkowski told the Quincy Patriot Ledger.
The Colts are expecting a big game from their speed rushers on the defensive line, particularly Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who need to overcome what opposing teams are doing to try to stop them.
"They're as good as we'll see," Patriots head coach Bill Belichicktold the Indianapolis Star.
The Colts also must absorb the loss of cornerback Marlin Jackson, who is out for the season after injuring his knee in Wednesday's practice.
"It's just one of those things, but we'll move forward," Colts head coach Tony Dungy told the Star.