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Patriots.com News Blitz - 12/8/2006

Jackie MacMullan of The Boston Globe checks in with rookie kicker Stephen Gostkowski. The rookie came in this season to replace the clutch-footed Adam Vinatieri. The season has held some rollercoaster events for the Southern boy. "You hear things," he acknowledged. "You try not to listen. I just want to have fun with the whole thing. I don't want negative thoughts rolling around my head. I had a few bumps in the beginning, but I never felt it was anything to panic about."

The Boston Globe's Mike Reiss reports that Pro Bowl voting concludes a week from today, and six Patriots rank in the top five at their positions. They are: quarterback Tom Brady, defensive lineman Richard Seymour, cornerback Asante Samuel, inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi, safety Rodney Harrison, and special teamer Larry Izzo. Fans make up one-third of the voting and players and coaches make up the final two-thirds. Reiss offers the latest tally of fan votes on each player. Also included is a piece on the Patriots fourth-down conversion rate, which leads the NFL, and a short interview with tackle Nick Kaczur.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald offers a piece on defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. "Fans look at Vince Wilfork and see a fat guy. NFL types look at Vince Wilfork and see Terrell Owens. Sounds crazy, but it's not. In a league full of freakish athletes, Wilfork may be the most unique of all. He's built like Ted Washington, moves like Warren Sapp and reads offenses like Tedy Bruschi," writes Tomase. "He's tremendously powerful," said Bills center Melvin Fowler. "If you're not ready for him, he'll knock you off the ball, and then you're going to have some problems."

Boston Herald writer John Tomase features fullback Heath Evans, who'll be playing his old team this weekend when the Pats travel to Miami. Last time he went down there was his first time since leaving the Dolphins. He brought it to them in place of the injured Corey Dillon and nearly doubled his then-lifetime rushing total of 108 yards. Evans still gets up for the Dolphins, because they're the team that once told him he wasn't good enough."When someone tells you, 'Hey, we don't want you here,' that's a tough pill to swallow," Evans said. "Any type of test or trial that comes in your life, me, I take everything spiritually first. It made me grow up in a bunch of areas. It made me a better man, a better football player, a better teammate."

Albert Breer offers the Boston Herald's Patriots Notebook, which includes stories on the Pats fourth-down conversion rate, safety James Sanders and Dan Koppen.

The* Boston Herald's* Jesse Noyes reports that Brady is suing Yahoo! for using his picture in a number of advertisements, including one in Sports Illustrated, without permission. Brady's lawyers will likely argue that, by using his photo without permission, Yahoo is diluting his celebrity endorsement value among other potential advertisers, said Douglas R. Wolf, a shareholder at Boston-based law firm Wolf Greenfield, which specializes in intellectual property cases.

Joe McDonald of The Providence Journal features rookie tight end David Thomas. Thomas may not share the spotlight with fellow rookies (running back) Laurence Maroney and (kicker) Stephen Gostkowski, but he's quietly been an integral part of the offense. "He's coming along well," said fellow tight end Benjamin Watson. "He still has a lot to learn, like all of us do, but he's progressed well since he's been here. He's a good player, and it's good for his confidence to get out there and play well. He's got great potential. He was a great player in college, and we're looking forward to great things from him later on."

The Providence Journal's Shalise Manza Young speaks with wideout Doug Gabriel about a fumbled pass in the Jets game a month ago. Asked if the fumble was the reason his playing time has diminished, he said, "I don't know. I don't know what it is. I don't ever think about nothing like that. I just go out there and do my job, whether in practice or a game. That's what I'm here for. I'm here to play whenever my number's called. That's what they got me here for, so I come to do my job."

Providence Journal writer Joe McDonald reports that Miami's Joey Harrington is making the most of his second chance as the Dolphins quarterback. "He's done a great job," said Patriots backup quarterback Matt Cassel . "He's obviously shown a lot of comfort in their systems. Every time I watch him it seems like he's getting better at making quick decisions."

Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant reports on hurdles that have faced the Patriots this season, though they look to be headed to the playoffs anyway. The latest speed bump? Maroney, who hadn't missed any time until leaving Sunday's game in the first quarter with what appeared to be a head injury, is listed as questionable for Sunday's game at Miami. The Patriots say he has a back injury. If Maroney can't play effectively, the burden will fall on Corey Dillon, 32, who has been playing with an arm injury sustained Nov. 19 against the Packers.

Rich Garven of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports that wideout Reche Caldwell is finally getting comfortable with Brady. The emerging receiver has taken steps forward — albeit, often frustratingly small ones — but, just as importantly, hasn't backtracked along the way. "He has done a nice job," quarterback Tom Brady said. "He works hard. He comes in every day and he practices hard. He executes well in practice and he studies hard and it pays off."

Eric McHugh of The Patriot Ledger offers an article on the Dolphins run defense, taking a look at how the Pats running game matches up. The Pats run defense is no weakling either, and they'll be facing backup running back Sammy Morris. "This might not be the week for either team to pile up yards on the ground, though. Since 2000, when Belichick arrived, neither team in this series has had much success running. In 13 games against the Dolphins, the Patriots have had only two individual 100-yard runners and seven times averaged less than 2.4 yards per carry," writes McHugh.

The Patriot Ledger's Eric McHugh reports on newly acquired defensive back Ray Mickens, who spent three seasons with coach Belichick in New York with the Jets. "I'm just happy to be back with him," Mickens, 33, said Wednesday, one day after he signed with the Patriots as a street free agent. "He taught me a lot in New York ... just the whole mental part of the game. He was the (defensive) coordinator and the DB (defensive backs) coach. That's the first time I've ever had that happen. Any time you had a question, he'd be able to answer it right there."

Mark Farinella of The Sun Chronicle reports on Tom Brady. "I'm always kind of a frustrated person because I expect perfection, and when it doesn't go well, when it doesn't go perfectly, I get probably more frustrated," he said. "But I'm a competitor and I like to win, just like a lot of guys around here. I'm enjoying having a chance now in December to really make a push." Farinella recaps the quarterback's recent trials and tribulations and previews the Miami defense he'll be facing on Sunday.

USA Today offers its Inside Slant on the Patriots, updated yesterday.

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