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The Big Nickel: Tom Brady’s back, optimism on Pat Chung and DeMaurice Smith set to visit

11.11.10 at 1:55 pm ET
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Tom Brady was back at practice on Thursday. (AP)

The five most important things you need to know about the Patriots today.

1. Tom Brady was back at practice. The quarterback was on the field with the rest of his teammates at the start of Thursday afternoon’s practice session, a day after he missed the Wednesday afternoon session with a reported foot injury. In the 10 minutes of access that the media has to practice, Brady did not appear to be limited in any way, going through stretches and a limited series of drills without a problem.

For what it’s worth, the measuring stick on how ready a play might be for Sunday usually comes on Thursday. If a player is on the field (and are listed as a full participant in practice when the injury report is released at 4 p.m.), chances are very good that they will play on Sunday. There’s still some time before Thursday’s injury report is released, but as of the practice session, it certainly appears Brady will play Sunday against the Steelers.

2. On a similar note, around Foxboro, the unspoken rule is that if you are injured and cannot play that week, you stay as far away from the media as possible. Players who have gone through this process in the past say it’s a little bit like being in limbo — you are part of the team, but you aren’t seen or heard.

To that end, safety Pat Chung, who suffered a bruised knee a few weeks back against the Chargers, has assiduously avoided the media, even when it comes to talking about his beloved Oregon Ducks. But on Thursday morning, the second-year safety held court at his locker with reporters in a brief Q&A session. Never a man of many words, he talked about a variety of topics, including his own health, the Steelers, and what Brandon Meriwether and James Sanders looked like from the sidelines.

“I’m going day-by-day, man. Day-by-day,” he said when asked about his health. “I feel good. Thumbs up. Everything feels good. Going day-by-day.

“I practiced yesterday,” added Chung, who said he feels like he is improving. “The knee feels better. It’s getting better every day. We’re just going to go by that, I guess.”

On what he feels like the Patriots need to prepare for against the Steelers: “Everything. Physical. They’re physical. We know they’re tough. They have a good quarterback, receivers, and running back. They’re deadly. We have to bring our ‘A’ game, every week, like I always say.”

While Chung was sidelined, Meriwether and Sanders got the bulk of the playing time at the safety position. How did it feel watching them out there?

“Of course it’s not easy, but it’s over now. It’s over. As those weeks went along, my knee got better. Everything is fine,” he said. “We have good guys back there, regardless of who’s in the game or not. I watched them make plays. When they make plays, I’m smiling, so it’s all good.”

The session wrapped up with a reporter asking him if Oregon was going to win the national championship. Chung quickly smiled.

“Oregon, all day man,” he said. “Oregon all day.”

3. The Steelers were without Ben Roethlisberger for the first four games of the season, as the quarterback was serving a four-game suspension. (Veteran Charlie Batch helped lead Pittsburgh to a 3-1 mark in Roethlisberger’s absence.) He’s returned to play the last four games for Pittsburgh, and posted a 3-1 mark. What’s the biggest difference in the Steelers’ offense since he returned?

“I wouldn’t say they’re doing too much differently,” said linebacker Tully Banta-Cain when asked about the Pittsburgh offense since Roethlisberger’s return. “Ben, I think he, he has his own set of problems that he creates because he can get out if the pocket if the receiver is uncovered. He’s got a big arm, so he can throw the ball when they aren’t covered. He’s definitely a great creator at the position. He’s the biggest change of the things we’ve seen.”

“He’s good. He’s good,” said Chung. “He knows how to make plays. When the pocket breaks down, he knows how to make plays outside the pocket. He’s a very experienced guy. Good arm. Smart. Has good players around him. That makes a difference.”

4. Jerod Mayo anticipates a little trash talk this week in Pittsburgh. The Patriots inside linebacker was college roommates with Steelers’ tackle Ramon Foster, and said he’s already gotten a phone call from him.

“I’m not sure — we’ll have to wait and see,” said Mayo with a smile when asked if it was going to be pregame trash-talking or during the game.

Mayo acknowledged that the Steelers’ offensive line has suffered its share of injuries, but at the same time, the backups (jncluding the 6-foot-6, 325-pound Foster) are big dudes as well.

“They’ve had injuries, but at the same time, those backups are big guys. Foster’s a big guy,” he said. “They’re all big. … They build their team around being physical. The line is big, Rashard Mendenhall runs the ball hard. Even their quarterback is a big guy. It’s a physical team.”

In the wake of the ugly loss to the Browns last Sunday, Mayo said this has been a tough week for the Patriots, but he has been reminded his teammates of a few simple things to remember heading into Steelers’ week.

“Just keep chipping at the rock. We were headed in the right direction, going into last week and we had a little hiccup in the road. But at the same time, we have a lot of good players on this side of the ball,” Mayo said.

“Right now, I think the best medicine for this team is to go on the road and have a big win against Pittsburgh. We’re kind of down this week, but at the same time, coach Belichick has done an excellent job picking up our spirits and telling us what works as a team.”

5. NFLPA chef DeMaurice Smith will make his long-awaited talk to the Patriots on Thursday after practice — he’s scheduled to meet with Patriots player rep Matt Light and the team, listening to their concerns as the NFLPA continues to take steps to decertify the union in preparation for the possibility of a lockout by owners next season.

“I think it will be good,” Light said. “Anytime you have the leadership here and in place, they’re here to deliver a message and to let the guys know what they’re thinking and what we’re all thinking and what we need to plan for and what we need to do. So it should be very informative. And that’s there job to inform guys of the upcoming battle and what to expect so I think a lot of these guys have been waiting for this for a while so it’s good they’re here. It will be a good meeting.

“That’s their job is to inform guys of the upcoming battle and what to expect. I think a lot of the guys have been waiting for this for a while.”

Smith’s meeting with the Patriots was originally scheduled for late September but was postponed when Smith traveled to the funeral of Broncos receiver Kenny McKinley on the day he intended to be at Gillette Stadium.

It is believed that part of Smith’s visit will include a vote on decertification. So far, 26 teams have voted to decertify, a routine step in the process to prepare the union for collective bargaining, which is ongoing between the NFL and the NFLPA. The move to decertify, or disband, the union means players could sue the NFL for violating antitrust laws if there is a lockout.

Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, Brandon Meriweather, DeMaurice Smith, James Sanders Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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