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Starks set to join Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - With the process of becoming a New England Patriot complete, cornerback Duane Starks can now move forward.

Starks, acquired by the Patriots in a trade from the Arizona Cardinals that was officially announced early this morning, was introduced to the New England media via a conference call Friday afternoon. Starks took the opportunity to answer questions on a variety of topics, including his diminutive size, his relationship with Dennis Green and the injury history that limited his production during his tenure in Arizona.

Starks, 30, is looking to prove - to himself - that he's the same player who experienced a rapid ascension early in his pro career before being plagued by injuries in recent seasons. The seven-year veteran was once considered one of the league's best cover cornerbacks during his first four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens after he was the 10th overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.

"I think just proving it to myself," said Starks, who has 29 career interceptions. "I don't think that I have to prove that to anyone else. I believe in myself, and I know that I'm that type of corner. The only thing that held me back were the injuries that shortened my season. Other than that, there's no lost confidence no lost anything. I feel good about myself and my playing style."

Starks began the process of ending his three-year relationship with the Cardinals by visiting Foxborough on Tuesday to meet with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, a chance for the future player and future coach to get acquainted.

"I'm really excited about becoming a New England Patriot," Starks said. "We got on the same page about a lot of things and I really like the things that he said, especially about not being complacent about winning Super Bowls. I feel like I'll be a great part of the team."

While it's thought he joins the Patriots as a starter, where exactly Starks fits in with the system remains to be seen. A starter in 62 of his 87 career games, he immediately ranks as the Patriots second-most experienced cornerback, joining veteran Tyrone Poole along with third-year player Asante Samuel and second-year pro Randall Gay.

While he feels his skills are a great fit in New England, Starks didn't discuss his status in the Patriots lineup with Belichick or whether he'll be a starter when the season rolls around.

"I think we're just going to wait and see how it turns out, see where I fit in best and where I can help the team," said Starks. "I'm accepting any challenges that the team puts me through and I'm willing to work for it if that's the case.

"If I don't start, it's because I didn't work hard. That's how I feel about any guy who plays in the NFL. If you're not starting, there's a reason you're not starting."

According to Starks, two teams were competing for his services. The Oakland Raiders made attempts at trading for him during the season, while the Baltimore Ravens joined the Patriots in trying to complete an offseason trade.

Starks, who has been dogged by injuries during his three seasons in Arizona, says he is now 100 percent healthy. He has missed 23 games during that span, including the entire 2003 season when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the preseason. He was limited to eight starts in 15 games this season with a dislocated shoulder.

At 5-foot-10 and 174 pounds, Starks is also accustomed to answering questions about his size.

"I know my ability, and I know my skills," Starks said. "I take advantage of being a finesse corner as well as being a contact corner where I'll go up and hit somebody at any given time. The stereotype of me being small has never proven its case against me. I've always went out and made tackles against big guys and made key tackles; it's never been a problem for me."

Among the issues associated with Starks and his tenure in Arizona was his relationship with Green, who was in his first-year as the Cardinals' head coach in 2004. Starks took an interesting route in refuting a report that he had fallen out of favor with Green.

"I can't even comment on that, because I've never known myself to be in a doghouse with him," Starks said. "Dennis, he didn't talk to his players too much. I don't know if he was playing hardball because it was his first year there and he was trying to get everyone on his page or what. No one really had a good relationship with him probably besides Emmitt Smith."

If nothing else, Starks is in line for a busy offseason. He's currently in his final semester at the University of Miami, where he'll soon follow through on a promise to his mother by completing his degree in sociology. In between mini-camps and training camp with his new team, he'll also be getting married in early summer.

Starks also indicated that his contract with Arizona was restructured in order to consummate the trade with the Patriots, a deal he believed left two more seasons (2005 and 2006) on the contract plus an option year. The former No. 10 overall pick in the 1998 draft was scheduled to make $3.6 million in each of the next two seasons under a five-year, $23 million contract he signed with Arizona in 2002.

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