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Quick Kicks: Wed 1/9 practice & locker room notes

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Temperatures remained unseasonably higher than normal this week, which is helping the Patriots practice outside behind Gillette Stadium.Rookie defensive end Justin Francis, who was not in attendance yesterday, was back on the field, making for perfect attendance among the players.

Defensive end Rob Ninkovich answered most reporters' questions today after practice. All but one, to be precise. When asked about the left hip he injured against Miami in the regular season finale two weeks ago, he politely replied, "I'm not going to get into it."

Head coach Bill Belichick made an interesting point during his daily press briefing. The subject of Texans running back Arian Foster came up, and someone wondered aloud whether it was difficult to simulate him in practice. "I think our backs do a good job giving us the look on the scout team in the running game. I think it's harder actually to simulate, to get all the offensive linemen… to get the blocking schemes kind of exactly the way the other team does it," he revealed. "It's probably easier for the runner than the overall blocking patterns depending on how each team does it during the week. You have to try to get all those guys coordinated." Houston runs what's known as a zone-blocking scheme on offense.

Linebacker/co-captain Jerod Mayo is more familiar with Foster than any other player on the Patriots. That's because they were once teammates at the University of Tennessee and faced one another daily in practice. How has Foster changed as a player since those days? "He's probably more patient now. He's lost a couple pounds. He might have been a little heavier in college. He's faster now as well," Mayo observed. "He's doing a lot of different things. He's catching the ball well out of the backfield, just an overall good running back."

QB/co-captain Tom Brady could become the league's all-time winningest quarterback in the playoffs with a victory over Houston Sunday. Is he aware of that fact? "With that question, I guess I'm aware of it," he smiled. "I've been fortunate to play with some many great players and great teams. Football is a team game. I've been fortunate to play here and have the opportunity. There's no place I'd rather be."

Team owner Robert Kraft made a rare appearance on the practice field. It's not uncommon to see him do so during training camp, but regular- and post-season visits are notable.

Today's injury reports are scheduled to be released around 5:30 p.m. EST.

UPDATE.. 6:24 P.M.

The Patriots are down to just 20 players on the injury report (they had 21 listed last week), by adding two (Ninkovich and fellow DE Trevor Scott – knee) and removing three (LT Nate Solder – adbomen; RT Sebastian Vollmer – back; DT Kyle Love – knee).

Meantime, Francis was not among the listed injured. All the others were limited with their various ailments.

The Texans are trying to keep pace down in Houston. They've got 15 players listed. Only one, CB Alan Ball (foot), did not practice. Seven others were limited, and the final seven took part fully in today's workout.

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