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Patriots Pro Bowlers 'honored'; Wed. notes

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Seven times for Tom Brady. Six for Brian Waters. Four each for Wes Welker, Vince Wilfork, and Logan Mankins.

And now, Andre Carter, Rob Gronkowski, and Matthew Slater know how it feels to be named to the NFL's all-star game, the Pro Bowl.

New England's eight representatives on the AFC squad were the most of any team, save San Francisco, which equaled that total on the NFC side.

The new guys on the Patriots roster got the news via their head coach.

"Actually, Coach Belichick called me in his office last night and told me. I was a little worried at first, because you don't want to get called into his office," joked Slater, New England's special teams co-captain. "He kind of had a little smirk on his face."

"I asked real quick if it was good or bad," chuckled Gronkowski, the top tight end in the AFC. "Coach Belichick told me in his office that I made it. It was cool hearing from him."

Voting for the Pro Bowl comes from three areas: NFL players, coaches, and fans, each of whose ballots are given an equal weighting of one-third.

"It's an honor," stated Waters, the Patriots' rock at right guard this season, his first in Foxborough. "It never gets old. You definitely set particular goals for yourself. The competitive nature in you, you always want to be considered one of the best.

"Anytime people take the time out of their business schedules to vote for you - as much as I appreciate the fans, because I'm not a big-name player at all - especially my peers and the other coaches, for them to take the time, and the people who really study the game and watch the game, they think that I'm a good enough player to represent this conference, I really appreciate that and I'm honored by that."

"It's a very nice thing for your peers and coaches to name you to the team. We have a lot of guys joining us, so it's always pretty cool," acknowledged Brady.

"You think about it. That's kind of a personal goal," Gronkowski admitted, "but it's a success due to the whole team and coaches. Without them, not of that would happen. I'm honored to be in it, obviously. There are so many great tight ends out there. To be the first-team tight end for the AFC, that's unbelievable."

 "Always happy for the guys that made it," Belichick told reporters. "There are always other guys that probably were worthy of it but that's the way it goes. I don't have a lot of control over that."

One of those players, according to many observers, is New England's other productive tight end, Aaron Hernandez. He could wind up being named to the squad later, however, if another tight end backs out.

"He's a great player and I love playing with him," Gronkowski raved, "I think he should of, but ... it is what it is. I think he's the first alternate."

The weird aspect of the Pro Bowl, nowadays, is that most of the players named as all-stars hope they don't get a chance to play in the actual game. Since the NFL changed the date of the contest a few years ago, from the Sunday following the Super Bowl to the one prior, Pro Bowl players from the teams that make the Super Bowl are exempt from participating in the annual exhibition game in Hawaii.

So, if things work out the way the Patriots hope, none of them will be in Honolulu at the end of January - a point each player admitted was in the back of their minds.

"We don't really care about Pro Bowls," Slater added. "We know what we want to do around here. That's all good and fine. We can look back on that after the season and enjoy it, but we're still focused on doing our job and winning football games."

"We have other plans hopefully," echoed Brady. "Personal records and anything like that, really in a team sport to me, there's just not any emphasis on those. We're trying to win team awards."

A Polite exchange

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Fullback Lousaka Polite is not unfamiliar with the Patriots. After all, he faced them a number of times as a Miami Dolphin the past few years. But Polite, out of work all season, is a Patriot now, signed just this week.

"Definitely excited. It's been a long 16 weeks," he told reporters. "I'm ready to learn as much as I can and contribute wherever they want me to."

Aside from fullback, he has been a contributor on special teams in previous stops in Dallas (2004-06), Chicago ('07), and Miami, where he'd been since '08 before being released at the end of training camp this summer.

"I've never coached him before," said Belichick, "so, we'll have to get a feel for him, what he can do, how he fits in, the things that we would ask him to do. I'd say somewhere in those neighborhoods."

Polite admitted he was a little surprised to get the call this late in the season.

"Yeah, man, because you just never know. As the weeks by, you just don't know what's going to happen. There's always a tiny bit of doubt because you don't know what to expect. You have to stay read, stay in shape. Luckily, I got the call."

He said he'd been working out at home in Miami and enjoying being a full-time, stay-at-home dad to his 9-year-old daughter, Anya.

"I'm in pretty good shape, but you can never duplicate game experience. I'll be fine, I'll push through it," he insisted. "That's part of football - staying ready and adjusting to changes."

For details on today's Patriots practice, please visit the PFW blog.

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