December 5, 2012

Edelman out for year as Patriots' injuries mount

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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New England Patriots' Julian Edelman (11) returns a fumble for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

"A lot of cuts in training camp are hard," Belichick said, referring to Stallworth. "Guys come in, they work hard, they're competitive on our team, (and) they're competitive against competition."

The loss of Edelman could mean more work for Wes Welker as a punt returner. That might increase the chances of injury for the NFL's leading receiver, although he filled in when Edelman missed three games this season with a hand injury.

Along the offensive line, this is nothing new. Backups have played key roles all season, protecting Brady and opening holes for running back Stevan Ridley. Right guard Dan Connolly missed the 59-24 win over Indianapolis Nov. 18 and was replaced by Nick McDonald. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer sat out the 49-19 victory over the Jets Nov. 22 as Marcus Cannon took the start. And Thomas has stepped in for Mankins admirably, as mentioned.

"They've all done well," Belichick said. "They're all young guys in the relatively early part of their careers that have come in here in a variety of circumstances."

The health of the Patriots is improving in at least one area — the secondary. Safeties Steve Gregory and Patrick Chung are back after missing four games each, although Devin McCourty has moved from cornerback into Chung's starting spot.

After Gronkowski was hurt, Belichick was asked about the expectations for the backup tight ends.

"Same as for every player on the roster," he said, "prepare, practice and be ready to go."

So far, so good.

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