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James Sanders can’t wait to play again for Bill Belichick – the ultimate ‘schemer’

08.25.11 at 5:38 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The hamstring bug that went around Patriots camp this summer didn’t miss safety James Sanders. But after getting treatment and being cleared to practice this week, the veteran safety entering his seventh season appears ready to hit the field running this Saturday night when the team travels to Detroit to play the Lions.

“I’m just looking forward to it, just the opportunity to be out on the field with the guys and getting the opportunity to play in a game,” Sanders said after practice Thursday. “I haven’t had the opportunity to play in a game this preseason yet and I’m excited and ready to go.”

He certainly will be tested as he’s going up against the likes of quarterback Matthew Stafford and receivers Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and running back Jahvid Best. Sanders, with eight career interceptions, is arguably the best cover safety the Patriots have on their roster so getting thrown into the fire Saturday isn’t altogether a bad thing.

“A lot of very dangerous skill players, great young quarterback,” Sanders said. “It’s going to be a test for our defense. We’re up for the challenge and we’re looking forward to it.”

So far, Sanders has watched – and tweeted – as the Patriots defense has allowed just 26 points and zero touchdowns in wins over the Jaguars and Buccaneers. The only TD scored by the opposition was a 69-yard interception return of a Ryan Mallett pass against Tampa Bay.

“Our hard work in training camp is carrying over to the field,” Sanders said. “The first two preseason games we’ve gotten better each and every game and we’re looking to build on that this third game against Detroit.”

He realizes he’s nowhere near as ready as Patrick Chung, Brandon Meriweather and Sergio Brown are since all three of them have gotten plenty of reps in practice and games. Add James Ihedigbo to the mix, and Sanders knows he’s got some work to do.

“I’ve missed a lot,” Sanders said. “The thing that’s helped me is that I’ve been in the system for a while. Mentally, I know a lot of the defenses, a lot of plays so I’m just trying to go out there and get my game legs, my football legs back underneath me. I’m just working hard and trying to get ready.

“I still have a ways to go. I’m working hard and striving to get that point. Hopefully, it’ll come sooner than later.”

But in keeping with the theme of the day, Sanders paid homage to Bill Belichick for bringing him along after taking him in the fourth round in the 2005 draft.

“I’m just privileged to play for him,” Sanders added. “I haven’t played for any other [NFL] coaches but I just know he’s a great guy to play for. He’s a schemer, a great guy when it comes to schemes. You hear all the compliments from all the other coaches and players around the league. This is all I know. I’m just privileged to play for him.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Meriweather, football, James Ihedigbo
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