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Patriots.com News Blitz - 12/29/2006

Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe offers a feature on punter Todd Sauerbrun, who signed a one-year contract with the Patriots a week ago today. Sauerbrun took time to speak with reporters yesterday in an effort to clarify some things about his past, including his four-game suspension from the start of the 2006 season for testing positive for the performance-enhancing substance ephedra.

Albert Breer of the Boston Herald also reports on Sauerbrun, saying, "Sauerbrun wants to set the record straight about the steroid rumors that have followed him through recent years. The problem is, he can't. The new Patriots punter has been advised to keep quiet on the issue, and in his first meeting with the local press corps yesterday, that's what he tried to do. Also included are Patriots notes.

Joe McDonald of The Providence Journal also reports on Sauerbrun. "I didn't think it would be this long until I would be somewhere, I really didn't," said Sauerbrun. "But here I am. I have a job and I'm going to make the best of this opportunity. I'm fortunate to be with the Patriots because they have a shot at taking this all the way, and I just want to help and be a part of it."

The Boston Globe's Mike Reiss reports that the NFL reviewed Ingram's hit on Brady, a few days after speculation that Ingram speared Brady died down. "It was reviewed, and it was a legal hit," NFL vice president of public relations Greg Aiello said yesterday. Although Ingram won't be fined, Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio might not be as fortunate. Aiello said the NFL was aware of remarks by Del Rio on the Jaguars' website, in which he appeared to advocate the illegal tactic of spearing against Brady. "They should've speared him then," Del Rio said on Jaguars.com. "Considering Tom's great games over the years against Jack Del Rio's defenses, you can understand the frustration," Belichick said. "I'm all for supporting your players, but it was a little surprising to hear he said that."

Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald reports on Brady. "Save for making only cameos at practice the last couple of days, Brady has given no indication that his back is a mass of woe. It's not like he was pushed through the locker room in a wheelchair yesterday; to the contrary, he bounced in and out of the room with his customary, carefree gait, and he even stopped to listen in for a bit as backup quarterback Matt Cassel was holding court with the 1,246 media representatives who show up at Gillette Stadium each day," writes Buckley.

The Boston Globe's Christopher Gasper reports on backup quarterback Matt Cassel, who revealed that he took all of Tom Brady's reps on Wednesday at practice. Brady, who has made 104 consecutive starts, including playoffs, is listed as probable for the game with a right shoulder injury, as he has been all season. But he took a big hit from Jacksonville's Clint Ingram last Sunday. Also included are Patriots notes.

Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call reports that Cassel is preparing for an expanded role Sunday in Tennessee. "You never know," Cassel said. "The coach hasn't told me anything, so I'm going out preparing and trying to get ready to go. If I get called on, hopefully I'm ready to go. I feel like I'm ready to go. That's how I'm approaching this week."

Joe McDonald of The Providence Journal reports on Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel, who's put up Pro Bowl-caliber numbers this season, including eight interceptions. "This is my fourth year and I've got a lot of experience," he said. "I've played against some of the best players in the league. The game has slowed down a little bit for me. The first couple of years it was fast, but this year it has slowed down."

The Boston Herald's Steve Buckley talks to seasoned veteran QB Vinny Testaverde, who's been in the NFL since 1987. "Watch the replay on television and it shows us on the sideline," said Testaverde. "When Tom gets hit, you can see the entire bench kind of jump forward a bit and hold its breath. It wasn't just the way he got hit. It was the sound of it as well."

Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant reports on Titans QB Vince Young. He has roughly half as many rushing yards as Michael Vick but may soon be twice the quarterback. "We do [both] run the ball pretty well," Titans quarterback Vince Young said on a conference call this week. "But at the same time, I try to look to pass first. I try to sit in the pocket and deliver the ball downfield. When everything is not going right, that's when I try to use my legs. I think that's the difference between us."

Tom King of The Telegraph also reports on Young. Even though the Titans are ranked 30th in passing offense in the league. Belichick said it best: The Titans are 8-7 after an 0-5 start and the main reason is Vince Young, who will likely be the NFL's Rookie of the Year despite some heavy competition. "We expected him to be a good player," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "We were very, very surprised at his progress early on through the off-season and into training camp. There was no doubt in our minds that he was going to become a starter this year."

Jennifer Toland of The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports that Brady will play Sunday. Also included is a piece on the Pats defense, which can set a record for fewest points allowed per game in the season finale. They're allowing an average of 14.27 points per game this year.

Eric McHugh of The Patriot Ledger offers safety Rodney Harrison's thoughts on injured linebacker Junior Seau. "Like he told me, it's just a dream to be able to play here in New England," Harrison, 34, said. "I think the fans and you guys (in the media) truly respect him because the guy was a true pro, he worked hard, and he's what football is about."

Everyone knows hot dogs taste good, writes Sandy Coleman of The Boston Globe, "but who knew that the sales of hot dogs and other munchies at Gillette Stadium help feed a network of community organizations." Stadium management allows more than four dozen area groups -- ranging from Temple Beth Am in Randolph to Habitat for Humanity -- to run the 50 concession stands during Patriots games, concerts, and other events. In return for their labor, the groups keep 14.5 percent of what they take in. Gillette, which provides the goods, keeps the rest.

Don't forget to check out USA Today's Inside Slant on the Patriots.

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