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.