Foxborough, Mass. - The Patriots didn't report any changes to their injury report Friday, which isn't good news. The Patriots again listed 11 players on the report, including wide receiver David Givens, who sustained a knee injury in last week's game against Pittsburgh and listed as questionable for the third straight day.
Givens was one of nine players who missed a portion of team practice Friday. Givens has been quarterback Tom Brady's primary target this season, leading the Patriots in both receptions (32) and receiving yards (544) while joining David Patten as the only receivers to play in all seven games.
"I think Givens will be all right," head coach Bill Belichick said, electing not to elaborate any farther.
Givens joined fellow receivers Troy Brown (shoulder) and Deion Branch (knee) on the injury report this week. Brown, who also missed the season opener due to a knee injury, saw his first action in four weeks against Pittsburgh, finishing with five receptions for 59 yards. Branch, who hasn't played since a knee injury Week 2 against Arizona, made an infrequent visit to the locker room during the media's open session Thursday. Brown, listed as questionable, and Branch, who is doubtful, both missed portions of team practice for the third consecutive day on Friday.
"I'm straight," Branch told reporters. "You'll see me soon."
Despite the overall rash of injuries, especially at receiver, Belichick wasn't looking to make excuses heading into Sunday's game in St. Louis. The only other receivers on the Patriots roster are Bethel Johnson and Kevin Kasper, both of whom play mainly on special teams.
"I think everybody has a job to do and regardless of who the people are, who the 45 active players are, it is their responsibility to be ready to go and do that," Belichick said. "From a player's standpoint, their job is the same every week-get ready to play and play well in the situations that they are called on. When we go to the game we expect everybody to be ready to go and perform at their highest level."
As for the rest of the injury report, cornerbacks Ty Law (foot) and Tyrone Poole (knee) are out and will not play Sunday. Offensive tackle Tom Ashworth (back), running backs Corey Dillon (thigh) and Patrick Pass (thigh), and linebacker Larry Izzo (knee) are all listed as questionable after missing portions of team practice again Friday. Ashworth, Dillon and Pass did not play last week.
Quarterbacks Brady (shoulder) and Jim Miller (shoulder) are again listed as probable.
A player who is listed as doubtful is described as having at least a 75 percent chance he will not play, while a questionable listing means a 50-50 chance he will not play. Belichick described his assessment of the injury report, which rarely results in players being upgraded in their status during the week.
"I think if [a player] improved and was upgraded, then we would do that," Belichick said. "Most of the time when I do the injury report on Wednesday, I try to take a reasonable assessment of where the guy is. If that is basically where he stays, then that is the way we leave it. If it looks like something changes, which usually it changes for the worse during the week, where somebody aggravates it in practice or something like that, then they get downgraded. If they don't, then they are probably going to be about where they were projected to be on Wednesday. Given the lack of miracle cures in medicine, you think a guy is at one point and you guess where he will be in three or four days to comply with league rules. If he doesn't get a setback, then that is probably where he is going to be."
Is There A "D" In Troy Brown?In light of the myriad injuries among the defensive secondary, the Patriots may be forced to get creative with personnel this week. One such scenario is that veteran wide receiver Brown is used as an extra defensive back, much like he was in nickel and dime situations during the preseason. Belichick sidestepped the issue when asked if Brown has been practicing in that role this week.
"Troy is a good team player, an all-around guy," Belichick said. "He has done whatever we asked him to. He has always done that. He has always been one of the most cooperative and unselfish players I have coached. So, what we have asked him to do, he has done, without getting into his specific responsibilities. I'm sure if we went in there and asked him to play tackle, he would go in there and play it the best he could."
The Official Response
For the first time in more than a year, the Patriots prepared for an upcoming opponent this week following a loss the previous week. Thanks to their NFL record 18 consecutive regular-season wins, and 21 wins overall, it's a situation the Patriots aren't accustomed to. Belichick said he wouldn't know until the game Sunday how the Patriots would respond coming off their first loss since a 17-20 setback to Washington on Sept. 28, 2002.
"How the team responds, we will see Sunday," Belichick said. "You try to get the team ready to play on Sunday, but, again, you don' t know what you are going to get on Sunday. How you set it up in practice may or may not be the way it unfolds. There are a lot of variables that come in. You do the best you can to set it up and it allows you to layout how you think a game is going to be played, but you never know. So you could get out there Sunday and things you worked on you could not execute well. They could do things you haven't even practiced that you have to rely on your experience and background to pick up and so forth. We will know Sunday afternoon.
The Patriots have been practicing indoors this week, not only shielding themselves from the windy New England weather but also preparing for the noise they anticipate in the Edward Jones Dome. "It was blowing pretty good and I think that affects the timing of the passing game and the kicking game, especially when it is not going to affect it on Sunday. We worked in there and then yesterday we worked inside also to try to take advantage of the noise situation." ... Belichick said the music the team has piped in during indoor practices this week has been a controversial issue. "That is one of the more controversial items we have. No matter what you play, not everybody is happy. I wouldn't even say I have the final say, but I have a say in it. There is a lot of input on that, let's put it that way. If it goes into a certain style for very long, then there is input on changing that type of music to something else." ... Entering the season, St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger had the best regular season winning percentage (.818) among active quarterbacks with at least 10 starts, recording an 18-4 record. Bulger is now 22-7 overall, including 14-1 at home. New England's Brady owns the best record of any active quarterback with at least 30 starts, going 40-13 as a starter during the regular season. ... St. Louis punter Sean Landeta, 42, is no spring chicken in his 20th NFL season. Landeta's rookie season was in 1985, when Belichick was defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. "I go back a long way with Sean and if you had told me in '85 that Sean would be punting 20 years later, I would have never thought [that]. I know punters have longer careers, especially the good ones, but Sean has really had a remarkable career. He has proved to everybody that he can just keep punting the ball, and that is literally all he does. He will never hold. He is never going to kick off. He will never do anything but punt. But, he can punt."