In Washington Sunday, Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher returned to action for first time since the Dallas game in October. He'd been out of commission with a thumb injury, but versus the Redskins, he appeared eager to get back to contributing.
Fletcher made the tackle on the opening kickoff, then the first tackle of the game from scrimmage on the ensuing play. His seven total tackles on the afternoon were behind only Jerod Mayo's nine and Devin McCourty's eight.
"Yeah, I feel good. Felt good to be back out there," Fletcher told reporters Monday. "Playing on Sundays … that's kind of what I live for."
He's had to live without football, though, for the last several weeks, at least on game days. Fletcher said he did everything, and more, that he could do to stay ready for his eventual return.
"You know, whatever you can do as far as training, I went above and beyond the criteria. You have to train here and on your own time, when the team's gone, to get prepared for Sundays again. My main goal when I was out a little bit was to be able to come back fully in shape and have a decent body on me.
"You just have to find different avenues for different injuries," Fletcher concluded with a curious grin. "I'll just leave it at that."
"I thought Dane did some good things," head coach Bill Belichick said of Fletcher's comeback performance. "[He] was in on a lot of tackles, played with good anticipation."
Much has been and is being made (in the media, at least) of the verbal altercation between QB Tom Brady and offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien on the sideline Sunday. A day later, Belichick didn't have much to say about the incident, which has been broadcast repeatedly over the past 24 hours.
The confrontation was sparked after Brady threw a fourth-quarter interception on a pass intended for wide receiver Tiquan Underwood in the back of the end zone.
Asked about being in the middle of the heated exchange, Underwood chuckled, "It's just part of the game. We're all passionate about our jobs and what we do. It's just part of it."
He then accepted part of the blame for not coming down with the ball.
"As a wide receiver, we must get open and catch the ball. If we can't catch it, no one catches it, so I have to just become a defender for Tom there and don't let the guy intercept the ball.
"It was a good play by the guy [Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson]," Underwood conceded, "but I know that I've got to run a better route to catch the ball. If not, I have to bat it down."
Rookie o-lineman Nate Solder will be returning to his home state of Colorado this weekend when the Patriots travel to Denver to face the Broncos. He's doing his best, he said, not to let the expected increase in demand for tickets and family/friend time distract him from his obligations to the game and his team.
"I'm not going to even try to worry too much about that. It's just about the game for me. I'm excited about it. [Denver's] a tough opponent. They've had a streak of wins here. It'll be a good challenge, definitely."
Solder paused for a moment to consider a diplomatic response when asked if he was a Broncos fan growing up. He decided on this:
"I'm a Patriots fan this week. I'm getting ready with the Patriots."