Pats players face tense time with roster cut ahead

When Mike Wright was coming out of high school, no Division I
team wanted him. When he was leaving college, no NFL team drafted
him.

When the New England Patriots cut their roster on Tuesday,
there’s no chance he’ll be released.

The defensive lineman is entering his sixth season with the
Patriots but still knows what teammates are going through as
Tuesday’s deadline for reducing the roster from 80 to 75 players
approaches.

”They don’t know what’s going on, to be honest with you. Their
heads are spinning” he said Monday. ”It’s a tough time for
them.”

Wright played one season at Ashland, a Division II school, then
transferred to Cincinnati where he walked on to the team and ended
up leading its defensive tackles with 42 tackles as a senior. The
Patriots took a chance on him and he appeared in 13 games as a
rookie in 2005.

And he kept getting better.

Last year, Wright started nine games after defensive end Richard
Seymour, a five-time Pro Bowler, was traded to the Oakland Raiders
before the season. Jarvis Green, who started 12 games at end,
signed with the Denver Broncos after the season. And Ty Warren, a
starter at end the past six years, is out for the season with a hip
injury.

So the Patriots may need Wright more now than ever. But he won’t
let that convince him that coach Bill Belichick will keep him even
though his job is secure.

”I always look at myself as on the bubble, whether I am or am
not. I play every down like it’s my last and try to make the team
every day,” Wright said. ”There’s more stressful years … but
this year I don’t know who he’s keeping on the team and you could
say I’m on the team, but only Bill knows that.”

And what Bill knows might not be what Matthew Slater, whose
status is far more precarious than Wright’s, wants to learn.

The wide receiver-kick returner is going into his third year
after being drafted in 2008 in the fifth round out of UCLA. In his
two years, he has no catches and 22 kickoff returns.

He said Tuesday that it’s an unsettling time for him.

”It’s going to be disappointing if things don’t work out the
way you want them to, but sometimes things are out of your
control,” Slater said. ”Like I always say, you can only control
your actions and your attitude, and everything else is out of your
control and you have to learn to accept that.

”So (if) you come out with the proper attitude and you come out
and bust your butt every day, you can leave with you head up either
way it goes.”

Few players improved their chances of making the team in the
Patriots last exhibition game.

They were thoroughly outplayed in a 36-35 loss to St. Louis in
which the defense rarely stopped the Rams on third down and the
offense rarely converted on third down.

That resulted in the Patriots holding the ball for only 16
minutes, 14 seconds and Belichick lashing into them at a team
meeting.

”It’s behind us now. That’s why we’re out here this hot day,
out here in full pads,” linebacker Jerod Mayo said. ”We did get
some humble pie and we didn’t play like we were supposed to. We
just played dumb football, had too many penalties, couldn’t get off
the field on third down.”

Their last chance to show improvement comes Thursday night in
their final exhibition game, at the New York Giants

”Guys learn from the negatives and positives of every game,”
Wright said. ”You take that and try to fix it on the practice
field and then go back the next week and get better, so we’re
trying to do that this week.”

Wright started against the Rams, but first stringers are
expected to get little playing time, if any, in the last exhibition
game.

Belichick already knows what he provides.

”He’s a very versatile player, athletic enough to do some of
the more skilled things, powerful enough to stand up against big
guys or more than one guy, double teams, things like that,”
Belichick said. ”From where he’s started, he’s really had a good
career to this point and he continues to work hard and build on
it.”

In his first Patriots camp, Wright simply was trying to make the
practice squad of a team that had won the Super Bowl the previous
season.

Week after week, there was a decent chance he’d get word that he
had been cut. That word never came.

”Nobody even told me I made the team. I just didn’t get
released,” he said. ”I always thought I’d get a phone call or an
official, `you’re on the team.’ There was nothing (but) my stuff
was still in the locker.”

It still is.