Cunningham, teammates will play catch-up this week

Cunningham, teammates will play catch-up this week
December 26, 2012, 6:15 pm
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FOXBORO -- The Patriots got a roster-related present Christmas day when Jermaine Cunningham's suspension was lifted. 
The defensive end received a four-game ban November 26 after violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. 
Wednesday morning, Bill Belichick talked about Cunningham's reinstatement. The team will do its best to make the transition seamless, which means they will all have to play catch-up this week. 
"I think anytime a player comes back after an absence for a while -- for whatever the reasons are, doesn't matter -- there's a combination of catching up mentally to what's going on, but also from a technique standpoint, communication, and reaction," the coach explained.
"No matter how much a player runs around a track or does sit-ups, or whatever, it's not the same as when the other 21 guys are out there. Hearing plays called, reading to what happens on the other side of the ball, communicating, making adjustments with your teammates there's just no way to do that other than to do it. It needs to be something the teammates need to have happen as well as the individual player who wasn't there himself."
Adjustments will be made by those who took Cunningham's place, too. For players like Trevor Scott and rookie Justin Francis, that could mean the increased snaps they've gotten in recent weeks could be cut back. 
But all is not lost.  
"It certainly is a positive for some of the players who get those opportunities," Belichick noted. "If they can take advantage of them and use the opportunity to enhance their role or show through their performance that they're able to handle more responsibility, it's a good thing for them. 
"And ultimately, it can be a good thing for the team to be able to actually see those guys improve, watch them get more reps in practice and in the games. Have more confidence in them to know that their execution level is higher."