FOXBORO -- The Patriots moved cancer survivor Marcus Cannon from the reservenon-football injury list to the 53-man roster this week. Coach Bill Belichick could give no timetable on when the offensive lineman might see field action, but the activation inspired a big-picture question: How do new guys get game-ready?
The subject is timely for the Patriots, who started two practice players, safety Sterling Moore and linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, last weekend against the Jets. Belichick emphasized it was not entirely a trial-by-fire situation.
"All the players practice with the team every day, so whichever guys, whoever is on the team, they take reps in there just because they have to be ready to play," said Belichick. "We all know that who goes out there on the first play of the game, there could be somebody out there different on the second or third play of the game so everybody has to be ready.
"We try to give everybody on the team as many reps as we can but certainly some reps so theyre prepared to play whether thats because of circumstance or because of a rotation or something like that. That consistency gets built through practice repetitions thats what practice is, its preparation for the game."
Circumstance gifted Moore and Tarpinian Sunday's playing time.
Starting safety Patrick Chung (58 tackles, one interception) suffered a foot injury in Week 10. Brandon Spikes (44 tackles in seven games) is the lost first-string linebacker, out with a strained MCL. With the Patriots defense already ranked last in the NFL, the Jets were expected to continue their winning streak at the expense of New England's depleted 'D.' And that was before 2008 third-round pick Antwaun Molden came in for 2010 Pro Bowl cornerback Devin McCourty, whose shoulder Moore separated via a friendly fire tackle.
But the Patriots survived.
The defensive line, led by Andre Carter's franchise record 4.5 sacks, did its job. The "scrubs" -- expected by so many to explode into shards of anxiety on impact -- didn't screw up anything. Tarpinian had four tackles; linebacker Tracy White (17 combined tackles last season) had four. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez had just one passing touchdown.
Preparation: Belichick stressed it for a reason. Also, he doesn't just heap the extra work on his assistants. He said Wednesday that he is as involved as possible and relishes the opportunity.
"It's one of the advantages, honestly, of being a head coach is you can kind of go wherever you want to go. If you want to work with this group, you can work with this group; if you want to work with that group, you can work with that group. It's kind of nice.
"If there's anything I want to try to convey to a particular player or a particular group, and it doesn't make a difference if it's new guys or old guys, whoever they are, I have no problem going into that meeting room, calling them into my office, sitting down with him, whatever it is and trying to tell them, 'Look, this is what I think's important this week, or this is what we think you can better, this is what we're looking for from you, this is something that's going to change, here's what's going to happen.' I'd say I try to do it on a weekly, but I'd say it's more of a daily, basis."
These days, the Patriots need it.