Foxborough, Mass. – Some light was shed on the New England Patriots health status heading into Thursday's season opener when the team released its first official injury report of the season Tuesday.
Running back Kevin Faulk is out for Thursday night's game against the Indianapolis Colts due to personal reasons, while wide receiver Troy Brown is questionable with a knee injury.
The Patriots listed five players on the initial report, confirming the severity of several injuries that were rumored but never confirmed (or denied) by the team. Joining Faulk and Brown on the report are quarterbacks Tom Brady (right shoulder) and Jim Miller (right shoulder), as well as tight end Benjamin Watson (knee). All three are all listed as probable.
While Faulk is listed as missing the game for personal reasons, he is also nursing what is being reported as a knee injury suffered against the Carolina Panthers in the third preseason game. He did not play in the preseason finale, a game in which starters on both sides of the ball were held out.
"I can't really characterize [Faulk's injury]," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said last Friday. "I'd say he's day-to-day. That's probably the best description I can give you. I spoke with him yesterday; he's doing better. We haven't really pushed it because it wasn't in the plans for him to play last night. We'll start to get a little better assessment of where he's at relative for this game. When we need to make a determination for that we'll make one."
Faulk's absence leaves the Patriots in a precarious position at running back. Starter Corey Dillon and reserve Patrick Pass are the only other running backs on the active roster, leaving some to question whether a roster move will be made in the two days leading up to the game. The Patriots released veteran Mike Cloud and placed rookie Cedric Cobbs on the physically unable to perform list Sunday, then re-signed undrafted rookie free agent Kory Chapman and second-year back Malaefou Mackenzie to the practice squad the following day.
Belichick said during his daily press conference Tuesday it was "possible" the team would make additional roster moves in the next 24 to 36 hours, and those moves wouldn't be for salary cap purposes.
"Whatever we do at this point will be for competitive purposes," he said.
Brown was vague earlier in the day regarding the status of the knee injury he suffered while returning a punt against the Panthers on Aug. 28. He wouldn't comment on whether or not he would play against the Colts, saying he felt "about a week and a half better" than he had before. Brown did not return to the game following his initial injury and did not play against Jacksonville.
Salary Cap Logistics
The Patriots are approaching Wednesday's deadline in which the total of all players due compensation under 2004 contracts must be under the league's $80.5 million salary cap. After Wednesday, the contracts of all players on the active roster, injured reserve and practice squad will count against the cap, leaving less than a day for teams to make last-minute roster adjustments. It was at this time last season the team cut veteran safety Lawyer Milloy when he was unwilling to rework his contract. According to several published reports, the Patriots were within $1 million of the cap as of last week.
The Patriots made one transaction Tuesday, signing safety Russell Stuvaints to the practice squad and releasing wide receiver Michael Jennings. Stuvaints (6-0, 202) was released from the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. Originally an undrafted rookie free agent out of Youngstown State, Stuvaints spent the 2003 season on the Pittsburgh practice squad and saw action in the final four games of the season on special teams. Jennings signed with the Patriots during the offseason and played in all four preseason games, catching two passes for seven yards and a touchdown.
Belichick had no comment on whom the official backup quarterback – Rohan Davey or Miller – would be against Indianapolis, saying only it would be announced before the game. … Belichick was tight-lipped on who would return punts if Brown and Faulk were not available against the Colts. Cornerback Tyrone Poole and receiver Deion Branch could be likely candidates. … According to Belichick, the regular season is much different for rookies than the preseason. "It's not tough to explain it, but it's tough to get them to understand it. It's a whole different game. I think it starts on special teams, that there's a tempo and a level of intensity on opening day that is much higher than what it is in the preseason. Honestly, I don't think they really fully understand it until they've been through it." … Stuvaints will wear No. 29 with the Patriots. … The Patriots are encouraging fans to show up earlier than usual for Thursday's 9 p.m. kickoff. Gillette Stadium will open one hour earlier than usual, with the parking lot opening at 4 p.m. and the stadium gates opening at 6 p.m.