With all the injuries to the Patriots defensive backfield this season, the team looked to add some depth the position today by adding a cornerback to the roster.
It wasn't DeAngelo Hall, who is rumored to be on the outs with Oakland these days, but Jason Webster, the free-agent who signed with New England during the off-season. He was injured throughout much of training camp and played sparingly in the pre-season.
But he did take part in the Pats' off-season program. So, his limited experience with the system here is helping him get up-to-speed quickly.
"Most of the things, I remember," Webster told reporters gathered around his new locker inside Gillette Stadium.
"The coaches [Dean Peesand Dom Capers] did a good job of reiterating some things that we learned in training camp. That helped out a lot."
"Jason has a good understanding of our system," head coach Bill Belichicknoted during his Wednesday press conference.
"He gives us a little bit of depth in the secondary, corner, nickel back. So, we will plug him in there and see how it goes."
Belichick did not go into detail when asked about the status of rookie Terrence Wheatley, who started the Colts game but left early with what appeared to be a wrist injury (he already has steel rod in his other wrist, which he injured in college).
"Well, we'll see how that looks," was all he would say about Wheatley's situation.
Meanwhile, Webster's transition could be made even easier by the Patriots schedule. The team just happens to be playing his most recent former employer, the Buffalo Bills, this Sunday.
Webster acknowledged that his one season with Buffalo (2007) could help him if he's called on to play this weekend.
"The skill position guys, especially the receivers, I had a chance to go against them [in practice] last year."
Webster praised wide receiver Lee Evansas a "good player" who "works hard in practice, catches the ball well. And he can flat out run … fast."
Webster said he's not surprised at Buffalo's strong start because they're not suffering as many injuries as they did a year ago. Plus, he feels second-year QB Trent Edwardsis maturing quickly.
"Trent Edwards … he's good. He's going to be a pretty good quarterback in the league. I think he understands the [Bills] offense. He's doing a good job of taking command of that offense. And his confidence. He isn't afraid to make a mistake. I think that's why he's playing as well as he's playing."
Over the next three weeks, the Patriots will face each of their AFC East rivals. After the Bills come to town on Sunday, the New York Jets will visit for a rare Thursday night game, and then the Pats travel to Miami the weekend before Thanksgiving.
"This is our grind moment, the division games – all of them tightly packed in together," said cornerback Ellis Hobbs.
This stretch of games could prove pivotal in determining whether or not New England makes the playoffs.
"Very important," Hobbs continued. "Winning in the division is key in your success as the season goes. More often than not, it eliminates chance or luck [from the playoff equation], having to rely on another team winning or losing. You definitely want to take care of home turf first, which is the division."
While that may be true, the Patriots certainly aren't looking too far ahead.
"I think what's important is this week against Buffalo," linebacker Mike Vrabel asserted. "After that, it really doesn't matter [right now]. I think the Bills are thinking the same thing.
"We haven't played them yet this year, but we have a lot of like opponents, so we've seen them on film a lot ... They play special teams great. [Cornerback Jabari] Greer's got two interception returns for touchdowns. And Edwards has been efficient. So, I think they get it done."
On this day after one of the most historic presidential elections in U.S. history, some players couldn't help but share their thoughts.
"Yeah, I voted … Obama '08!" Hobbs was overhead exclaiming to a group of reporters.
His fellow secondary mate, Deltha O'Neal, elaborated on his sentiments.
"You know, when I was a kid, I used to hear other guys – black kids – say, 'Someday, I want to be president.' And I was always like, 'Yeah, right.' But now, it seems like the sky's the limit. [President-elect Barack Obama] worked hard and made his dream come true. Now, I can tell my kids that if they want to be president, it's possible."
O'Neal was quick to point out that he wasn't opposed to Republican John McCain, who had "some good ideas."
Like his tax-cut plan, perhaps, which would help higher-earning citizens like O'Neal?
"Oh, most definitely," O'Neal replied with a smile.
Thursday Practice Notebook
Wheatley and fellow defensive back Lewis Sanders(hamstring), along with running back **Sammy Morris *(knee), were the only Patriots not in attendance at the start of Wednesday's practice, which was held outside on a balmy November afternoon.
Rookie Matthew Slaterwas wearing a white jersey and taking reps with the wide receivers.
During the team stretching period, Hobbs was entertaining his teammates with some sort of pre-planned soliloquy. It was difficult to hear everything he was saying, but whatever it was, it sent the team into a fit of laughter.