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Going into this weekend's exhibition game, the third of four, there are two major issues at hand. The first is roster spots, as this week's game will help the coaching staff decide who will make the 53-man roster. The other issue, at least according to some, is that tomorrow night's game against the Carolina Panthers will be a rematch of the Super Bowl. In The Boston Globe, Adam Kilgore reports that Coach Bill Belichick has revisited the Super Bowl game, though not necessarily for strategic purposes. "Belichick has watched the tape not for preparation or game planning but for sheer enjoyment, a departure from the all-business, everything-must-have-a-purpose perception of the coach," writes Kilgore.
Tom Curran of The Providence Journal found that most of the players have not watched the game, choosing to look forward rather than backward. "But of the 10 players surveyed, only Kevin Faulk and Richard Seymour have watched the game for enjoyment," writes Curran.
Alan Greenberg of The Hartford Courant reports that the Patriots have hit hard in practice all week, a return to basics that they hope will pay off tomorrow night. "Because of their non-performance, the Patriots practiced in full pads all week. The hitting they failed to do in Cincinnati they did to each other this week in Foxboro. The focus was on fundamentals," Greenberg writes.
While the Patriots are saying all the right things about tomorrow night's game being just another exhibition, some Panthers are treating the game as much more, according to Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call. Parente quotes Panthers defensive end Brentson Buckner as saying "If you think this is just a preseason game, you're mistaken. It's going to be a war."
Parente tells us that Belichick is aware there will be a raucous atmosphere awaiting the Patriots tomorrow night, and thus has taken extra measures to prepare them for it. "For the past three days, the players have executed drills and ran formations with the sounds of Bon Jovi and Def Leppard echoing in the background," writes Parente. "This is not some sort of 1980s rock reunion tour -- it's Belichick's way of simulating crowd noise."
Kilgore profiles one of the players who will be hoping to secure a roster spot with a good performance this weekend, defensive back Scott Farley. Farley, who played for his father at Division III Williams College, would be the only Massachusetts native on the Patriots roster. "For now, he's just basking in his chance to play with the Patriots, a team he's rooted for since his days in Williamstown," writes Kilgore. "He even used to visit practice as a child. These days, he's getting paid to play in them."
In today's notebook, Curran looks at Mike Cloud, the former Boston College standout who is trying to make the team as the third running back behind Corey Dillon and Faulk. "Mike Cloud has never been handed a thing in the NFL unless you want to count the untimely injuries, clogged depth charts and plain-old bad breaks," writes Curran.
In the wake of yesterday's release of veteran wideout J.J. Stokes, Kevin Mannix of The Boston Herald sees the team going in the direction of youth. Mannix breaks down the roster battles by position.
Chris Kennedy of The Republican focuses in on the offensive line, a unit of paramount importance that has yet to impress. "The group has been considered a weakness at the start of the season in recent years, but chemistry and work ethic have usually been able to overcome inexperience," writes Kennedy.
Clark Judge of CBS.Sportsline.com previews the AFC East, where the Patriots look to become the first team to win the division in back to back years since the '97 Pats. According to Judge, the "Pats look like clear favorites."