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Patriots Positional Snapshot - LB

As the Patriots begin their offseason strength and conditioning program today, will begin focusing on who’ll be taking part, position by position.We start with a look at the linebackers.


Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas.

New England typically runs a base 3-4 defense, meaning the team needs three down linemen and four linebackers to start each game.

At the moment, however, the Patriots only have seven linebackers under contract.

Granted, that's as many as they had on their active roster during the playoffs last season, not including OLB Rosevelt Colvin and ILB Oscar Lua, who were patiently waiting and recovering on injured reserve.

But a month ago, both the veteran Colvin, entering his 10th NFL season, and Lua, who just finished his first, were released. And there's been no indication whether Junior Seau will return for a 19th pro season.

As of Monday, March 24, the start of New England's offseason strength and conditioning program, the Pats LBs include: Eric Alexander, Tedy Bruschi, Larry Izzo, T.J. Slaughter, Adalius Thomas, Mike Vrabel, and Pierre Woods.

With Bruschi re-signing in February to a two-year deal, he'll be back for a 13th season in New England. Izzo, though almost exclusively a special teams player, is also in his 13th year, while Vrabel is in his 12th season. Thomas will turn 31 during training camp

It's conceivable that Colvin could come back under renegotiated terms. And Seau's still-unfulfilled quest for a Super Bowl ring could be a factor in his status.

That leaves four of the current Pats linebackers with little or no experience as full-time contributors in the New England defense. So, between now and training camp, there likely will be at least a few additions to the roster.

What little time Alexander and Woods have seen has come in big games. Alexander started and played most of the AFC Championship Game in Indianapolis during the 2006 playoffs, while Woods had a chance to make a game-changing play in last month's Super Bowl, but couldn't hang on to a Giants fumble deep in New York territory.

On the free agent market, the team brought in Slaughter less than two weeks after the Super Bowl. A teammate of Thomas in college, he's bounced around the NFL in seven previous seasons (Slaughter was out of football in '07). The team also hosted Carolina's Adam Seward recently, but a deal wasn't consummated at that time.

Many of the top free agent LBs have signed elsewhere already, but Takeo Spikes (released by Philadelphia) and the Steelers' Clark Haggans are two names of value that remain available.

And although the Pats have historically not often gone the LB route in the NFL Draft under head coach Bill Belichick, the team could go in that direction next month given its current circumstances at the position.

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