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The Big Nickel: A shot at redemption for Darius Butler and what the loss of Jim Leonhard means for the Patriots

12.03.10 at 4:50 pm ET
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The five most important things you need to know about the Patriots on Friday:

1. The official game status won’€™t be released until Sunday, but based on how things have gone for the last week or so, it’€™s a safe bet the Patriots will be without cornerback Jonathan Wilhite (hip) and defensive linemen Myron Pryor (back) and Mike Wright (neck/concussion) on Monday night. As was the case for the last week or so, all three missed practice again on Friday, and with the absence coming so late in the week (even for a Monday game), it means New England will be without all three.

Without Pryor and Wright, the Patriots will lose some depth along their defensive line, as well as some good interior pass rush ‘€” Wright leads the team in sacks with 5.5 sacks. Look for more responsibility on the shoulders of starters like Vince Wilfork, Gerard Warren, Brandon Deaderick and Ron Brace, as well as backup Kyle Love.

And presuming Wilhite is a no-go for Monday night, that means New England will likely turn to Darius Butler at corner. It’€™ll be a shot at redemption for the UConn product, who was roasted badly by Braylon Edwards in the Week 2 matchup between the Patriots and Jets and was relegated to backup duty after that. (In fact, if the Patriots use Kyle Arrington as an outside linebacker/defensive end, as they have done the last couple of weeks, Butler could see some time on the exterior against the likes of Edwards.)

2. The loss of Jim Leonhard for the Jets means New York has fewer options when it comes to defending the Patriots, particularly in the passing game. Jets coach Rex Ryan told reporters that New York would go with Eric Smith in Leonhard’€™s place, but the dropoff is sizable. Another area where Leonhard’€™s difference could be felt is in special teams, where he’€™s the Jets No. 1 punt returner. Rookie Kyle Wilson has also been returning punts this season for the Jets ‘€” however, putting a rookie into the position of having to catch a key punt in a game at windy Gillette Stadium could be an awful tall order. (According to special teams coach Mike Westhoff, that role will likely fall to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery.)

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Read More: Brandon Deaderick, Dam Connolly, Eric Smith, Jerricho Cotchery

Jets practice report: Jim Leonhard out with ‘severe’ leg injury

12.03.10 at 4:21 pm ET
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The loss of starting safety Jim Leonhard dominated the news out of Florham Park, N.J. on Friday as the Jets posted their injury report. Leonhard has been ruled out and is likely lost for the season with a “severe” injury to his shin. The rest of the injury report remained unchanged as tackle Damien Woody missed his second straight practice with a knee injury. The Jets will practice once more on Saturday before Monday night’s game at Gillette Stadium.

Jets Friday practice report:

OUT
S Jim Leonhard (calf, shin)

Did Not Participate in Practice
T Damien Woody (knee)

Limited Participation in Practice
CB Marquice Cole (hamstring)
WR Jerricho Cotchery (groin)
DE Shaun Ellis (knee)
CB Dwight Lowery (concussion)

Full Participation in Practice
CB Drew Coleman (groin)
LB David Harris (calf)
C Nick Mangold (shoulder)
LB Calvin Pace (foot)
DT Sione Pouha (ankle)
QB Mark Sanchez (calf)
G Matt Slauson (knee)
WR Brad Smith (back)

Read More: Damien Woody, Jim Leonhard, New England Patriots, New York Jets

Pats Friday practice report: Tom Brady still limited

12.03.10 at 4:10 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots’ injury report for Friday remained unchanged from Thursday as quarterback Tom Brady was still limited. Brady hasn’t fully participated in practice since Nov. 5, the Friday before the game in Cleveland. Three others did not participate. The team will have one more on-field practice Saturday before Sunday’s walk-through and Monday night’s game.

Patriots injury report for Friday:

OUT
G Stephen Neal (shoulder, placed on IR)

Did Not Participate in Practice
DE Myron Pryor (back)
CB Jonathan Wilhite (hip)
DE Mike Wright (neck, concussion)

Limited Participation in Practice
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder, foot)

Read More: injury report, New England Patriots, New York Jets, nfl

Rex Ryan: Jim Leonhard injury ‘a huge blow’

12.03.10 at 3:58 pm ET
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – It was a somber Rex Ryan who walked to the podium on Friday for his press conference following Jets practice.

It didn’t take long to figure out why.

“We got some terrible news,” Ryan said to open his press conference. “Jim Leonhard won’t play this week. He has a shin injury that is severe. He’ll be out this week. It’s a huge blow to us.”

The Jets starting safety – described by both Kyle Wilson and LaDainian Tomlinson on Friday as “the heart and soul of the defense” – collided with Patrick Turner during a drill toward the end of Friday’s practice and was carted off the field.  Ryan did not know the extent of the injury but ruled the veteran as out for the Monday night contest between the two 9-2 clubs.

“I feel terrible for Jim but not sorry for ourselves,” said Ryan. “He’s a huge part of what we do … but guys will have to step up. We’ll be ready.”

Ryan indicated that Eric Smith will take over at safety. Leonhard also returns punts for the Jets, a role that will likely fall to Jerricho Cotchery, according to special teams coach Mike Westhoff.

Read More: Jim Leonhard, New York Jets, Rex Ryan,

Dan Connolly: Logan Mankins ‘had my back’

12.03.10 at 3:49 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Not that he needed it the way he’s been playing this season but Patriots do-it-all offensive lineman Dan Connolly said Friday he got a nice pick-me-up from left guard Logan Mankins when he returned to the team in early November.

Mankins had very kind words of support for Connolly when he came back to work, impressed with the way the 6-foot-4 Connolly, 28, stepped in for him while Mankins worked out his feelings about Patriots management.

“It felt good,” Connolly said on Friday. “Me and Logan are good friends and I knew he had my back the whole time and he supported me. I talked to him after a few games and he’d tell me I played well and did a good job.”

How appropriate since having someone’s back along the offensive line is not just important but crucial to an effective, cohesive unit.

Whatever the hard feelings were with Mankins and the Patriots’ front office, those certainly didn’t carry over to the more important environment of the locker room when Mankins return prior to the Nov. 7 game in Cleveland.

Connolly came out of Southeast Missouri State as an undrafted free agent in 2005 and played two years with the Jacksonville Jaguars. After sitting out 2007, the Patriots signed him before the 2008 season when he played in just one game. Then in 2009, he played in 14, starting four. This year, he has started 10 of the 11 games for the Patriots and has become a stud along the line, playing guard on both sides of center.

“When I came here, I didn’t know to what extend it would be but I knew it would have to be,” he said. “I knew I would have to play multiple positions in order to make this team and do what I have been asked to do.”

Now, it’s right guard Stephen Neal that Connolly will be asked to fill in for the rest of the season as Neal was placed on season-ending (and possible career-ending) injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

Connolly certainly is familiar enough with the right guard position as he has started at that position since Neal was injured in the Cleveland game.

“I’ve been starting first seven games for Logan and then the last three for Steve,” Connolly said. “I’ve been preparing to start games the whole season so nothing’s really going to change for me, just keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

Tom Brady has been sacked only 15 times this season, and just three times in the last five games. And one reason Brady hasn’t thrown an interception since Oct. 17 against Baltimore is because he’s had – for the most part – plenty of time to read and react in the pocket.

So, given the fact that Brady is coming off a ‘perfect’ quarterback rating of 158.3 and seems to be in a remarkable comfort zone of late, Connolly doing what he’s been doing for the rest of the season would be just fine by the Patriots.

Read More: Dan Connolly, Logan Mankins, New England Patriots, nfl

Santonio Holmes on James Harrison fine: ‘I think it’s [expletive]‘

12.03.10 at 3:34 pm ET
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Santonio Holmes was asked Friday by WEEI.com about comments made by his former teammate Hines Ward on Wednesday. Ward called the NFL “hypocritical” and said the league “doesn’t care” about the players. Holmes quickly agreed with Ward’s thoughts and also came to the defense of another former teammate, James Harrison, who was fined $25,000 for a hit on Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday.

“They don’t [care], they don’t,” said Holmes, who played with the Steelers from 2006-09. “I think it’s [expletive]. I don’t care, you tackle a guy, you hit a guy? That’s the [expletive] object of the game. That hit that he [Harrison] made on that quarterback? That was a [expletive] clean hit that he shouldn’t get fined for.”

Harrison has been fined four times now for a total of $125,000 this season, but it is the latest fine that raised the ire of Ward and now Holmes, who can’t comprehend how Harrison’s hit on Fitzpatrick could draw the same fine as Andre Johnson’s for punching Cortland Finnegan twice in the fourth quarter of Houston’s Week 12 game vs. Tennessee.

“No consistency, not at all” said Holmes. “I can’t deal with it, I don’t know. I’m not getting myself involved in that [expletive] to where I hurt myself and lose 25K. I hate that the players that have to do it, that have to lose money for stupid [expletive].”

Read More: Hines Ward, James Harrison, New York Jets, Santonio Holmes

Jets lose safety Jim Leonhard to ‘severe’ leg injury

12.03.10 at 2:46 pm ET
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The Jets secondary will have to rely more on the talents of their two shut-down corners after coach Rex Ryan announced Friday that starting safety Jim Leonhard had to be carted off the practice field in Florham Park, NJ with a “severe” leg injury.

Ryan said Leonhard likely suffered a break of the leg and will be out against the Patriots. Leonhard leads the Jets secondary with 65 tackles and served as the signal-caller for the secondary, including cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.

Back in Week 2, Leonhard, who also served as a punt returner, had a pair of tackles and helped the secondary shutdown Tom Brady and hold the Patriots scoreless in the second half of New York’s 28-14 win.

WEEI.com’s Kirk Minihane is on site covering the Jets in Florham Park and will have more on how this injury could impact Monday night’s game.

Read More: antonio cromartie, Darrelle Revis, Jim Leonhard, New England Patriots
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