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Patriots suffer an injury and other scares in win over Bucs

08.18.11 at 11:58 pm ET
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The Patriots’ second preseason game, a 31-14 win over the Buccaneers in Tampa, had many symptoms of an exhibition. Many starters didn’t play past the first half, rookies got significant time and looked like rookies in the process, and the offense likely got away with some things that wouldn’t happen as easily in the regular season. The game also featured another thing commonly associated with the preseason: injury concerns.

By the end of the night, the fact that 17th overall pick Nate Solder landed funny on quarterback Tom Brady in the second quarter was an afterthought, as was the fact that Chad Ochocinco took a helmet-to-helmet shot from Tampa rookie Mason Foster in the first quarter. A lower-body injury to safety Bret Lockett suffered on the Pats‘ first punt of the game forced the third-year player to leave the game as he was carted off the field.

In the final minutes of the game, the Pats had their final scare of the night when they saw their second instance of helmet-to-helmet contact. Running back Danny Woodhead was the victim as he chased down Jock Sanders on a fourth-quarter punt and was rocked by Devin Holland.

Woodhead, who had 63 rushing yards in the first half on five carries, was slow and appeared dizzy as he got back on his feet following the play. His teammates surrounded him and held him to ensure he wouldn’t lose his balance. Though the running back did not return to the game, he could be seen sitting on the bench with his helmet off, talking to coaches and teammates, suggesting a concussion was not suffered on the play.

Unlike the play in which Ochocinco was hit, the play that yielded the helmet-to-helmet contact on Woodhead was not penalized. Making his Patriots’ debut, Ochocinco was reaching to reel in a pass from Tom Brady when Foster ran into him with his helmet. While it was difficult to tell whether intent was there on Foster’s part, the rookie was slapped with a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Holland hit an unsuspecting Woodhead during Sanders’ punt return, but it was only Woodhead, and not a flag, that hit the field.

“I saw him in the locker room,” coach Bill Belichick said after the game. “He seemed all right. We’ll see how it goes.”

Belichick wouldn’t suggest any frustration with the lack of a call on the play, stating the Patriots have to work with however a game is called.

“You have to talk to the league about all that,” Belichick said. “They’re the ones that make the rules and the officials are the ones who call them. All we can do is go out there and play the game.”

Regardless of whether contact was incidental or a case of players going to lengths to make big plays, the Patriots were happy to see that Woodhead did not appear to be seriously hurt on the play.

“He’s a tough guy, running off the field,” Brady said of Woodhead. “He’s unbelievable.”

In the case of Locketts’ injury, the team’s depth chart at safety will certainly become more interesting should he miss significant time. Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung and 2010 undrafted free agent Sergio Brown are the only healthy safeties on the team’s roster. James Sanders has practiced sparingly since the open of camp.

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