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Paul's Calls: Dowling eager to return

The Patriots have been busy during the first week of free agency with six newcomers already in the fold but there’s been some activity involving current players as well.

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FOXOBOROUGH – The Patriots have been busy during the first week of free agency with six newcomers already in the fold but there's been some activity involving current players as well.

On Monday second-year cornerback Ras-I Dowling took the short trip from the Gillette Stadium to the Foxborough Charter School to address about 500 students ranging from second through fifth grade as they prepared to take MCAS tests later in the week.

Dowling talked stressed the importance of preparation – both mentally and physically – as well as good old fashioned hard work as keys to academic success.

"It's a good way to get ready," Dowling said of his role in kicking off the school's rally. "It's a great opportunity for me to go back and give back to the kids the way I had the opportunity to listen to others when I was growing up in Virginia."

Dowling, who is coming off hip surgery to repair a torn labrum that landed him on injured reserve midway through his rookie year, is eager to return.

"I'm just trying to get better every day," Dowling said. "You can never stop working hard around here. It was great to be around such a great group of guys last year, and going through the experience of the Super Bowl was great. But it was also frustrating to not be able to be a part of it. Of course you want the chance to get out there and help your teammates win."

He figures to get that opportunity in 2012. Assuming he returns to full health, Dowling will be in the mix at cornerback with last year's starters Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty, as well as playoff hero Sterling Moore. With Steve Gregory, one of the aforementioned six free agent additions, set to join the fray at safety the secondary could have a different look if Dowling is able to stay healthy.

"Obviously you keep track of the moves the team is making and how they will help the team," Dowling said of the offseason activity. "I'm just going to keep working to get ready and am looking forward to being part of it."

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