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Patriots Notebook: Johnson vital cog for defense

Foxborough, Mass. - One of the unsung members within a dominant effort by the Patriots defense in Sunday's 24-3 win over Baltimore was linebacker Ted Johnson.

In an old-fashioned style game where the ability to run the ball was paramount, the Patriots defense shut the door on Baltimore, holding the Ravens to 124 total yards, 77 yards rushing and just three rushing first downs. A big part of that effort was Johnson, the run-stuffing linebacker who finished second on the team with nine total tackles and added his first sack of the season. Stopping the run isn't a glamorous job, allowing Johnson to fly well below the radar.

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]()"I thought [Johnson] did a good job," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "As usual, he played a pretty solid game in the running phase of it. He did a good job of tackling. [He] is a physical player. He is kind of an old-school type of guy. There was a physical offensive line, a lot of inside runs, opportunities to blitz a little bit, some good contact out there and a physical game. Ted does a good job with that."

Johnson has re-established himself at the center of the Patriots run defense after missing the majority of last season due to injury. He began 2004 in a reserve role, but was inserted into the starting lineup in Week 2 and is now is tied with fellow linebacker Tedy Bruschi for second on the Patriots with 81 total tackles, including 52 solo stops. Johnson has become a critical figure in the Patriots ability to stop the run, recording at least five tackles in each of the last six games.

"For me, it's always been about being healthy," Johnson said. "It's out of sight, out of mind. If you're not healthy, and you can't contribute, then you're not the player that you once were in some people's minds. I've always believed in myself. The story has been done a number of times, but there's a reason I'm still here and I feel fortunate that I can still produce at a high level and I get the opportunity to."

Infirmary Report
Patriots starting left tackle Matt Light was present in the Patriots locker room Monday, seemingly moving well after he was forced to leave Sunday's game with a left leg injury during the fourth quarter. Light, who had to be helped off the field, did not talk to reporters again on Monday. Belichick said the team would take a wait-and-see approach after an off day Tuesday.

"We'll take a look at him on Wednesday," Belichick said. "I think he's a little sore, but we'll see how he is on Wednesday when we start practicing again and hopefully he'll be okay."

One player who appears closer to returning is cornerback Tyrone Poole. The veteran cornerback, who was listed as doubtful for yesterday's game with a knee injury, was spotted warming up on the field prior to the game but was deactivated for the sixth consecutive contest. Belichick said the poor field conditions had no effect on Poole's playing status.

"I think everybody is getting better," Belichick said. "We'll evaluate them on Wednesday and see if they're ready to practice. If they're ready to practice, then we'll practice them. If they're not, then we'll give them more time."

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]()Brown Back In Return Mix** For the first time in over two months, veteran wide receiverTroy Brownwas back returning punts in Sunday's win over Baltimore. Running backKevin Faulkhandled the punt return duties in the first half, returning three punts for 10 yards while fair catching another, but muffed a punt late in the first half and absorbed a big hit by Ravens' linebackerRoderick Green. Faulk was forced to leave the game, and although he did return, the coaching staff stuck with Brown in the sloppy field conditions.

"It was a little bit of both," Belichick said when asked if the change was made based on injury or on the need for a switch. Brown returned three punts for 28 yards in his first return action since Sept. 19 at Arizona.

Belichick, who estimated Brown played about 20 snaps as a defensive back in passing situations, said his double-duty on both sides of the ball wouldn't be a factor in whether he continues to return punts on special teams.

"In fact, he's been asking more about returning punts lately," Belichick said. "When a player is asking to do more, I don't get the feeling that he feels like he's overloaded. I thought he did a good job back there. The field conditions were tough, the ball handling was tough. We know what Troy can do. He's one of our most dependable players."

Quick Hits
Belichick said defensive back Eugene Wilson was awarded one of the game balls for his performance against the Ravens. Wilson, a starting safety who made his first career start at cornerback, finished with three tackles and had a key tackle on the game's opening kickoff. "I thought [Wilson] did a good job. I thought he played well. He made a big play on kickoff coverage where he threw [B.J.] Sams down there as he was about to bounce it outside. I thought he gave us a real good performance outside. That was big for us in the game." ... Johnson on Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, who had 12 tackles against the Patriots: "I have a ton of respect for his game. He's a great athlete. I appreciate linebackers for different things, so does he make a lot of plays? He actually does. But there's a lot of linebackers in this league that make a lot of plays. But I have a ton of respect for his game and his energy level. They seem to feed of him, he's a great leader."

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