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Bill Belichick talks about the struggles of linebacker Jermaine Cunningham

10.11.11 at 4:35 pm ET

He started the year as someone many people believed could make a serious impact on the Patriots’€™ defenseincluding his old coach Urban Meyer — but to this point, 2011 has been a lost season for linebacker Jermaine Cunningham.

The 6-foot-3, 266-pounder finished his rookie season with 35 tackles (27 solo), one sack and two forced fumbles, and according to Pro Football Focus, was on the field for 577 of New England’€™s 1,108 defensive plays in 2010.

But a myriad of things have conspired against Cunningham this year. The Patriots brought in several veterans to fill that end spot in their four-man front, including Andre Carter and Shaun Ellis. In addition, he’€™s appeared to fight his way through injury, and has been forced to get accustomed to New England’€™s move from a three-man front to a four-man front this season.

As a result, his playing time has dropped off dramatically this season. After starting 11 games last season, he has zero starting assignments in 2011, and has just one tackle in four games this year.

‘€œI think one of the things that Jermaine has had to work through is the time that he missed in training camp and the preseason games at the end of preseason; for a second-year player, especially,’€ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Cunningham. ‘€œWith him, last year really playing outside linebacker and doing that and this year we transitioned into a little bit more of a multiple defensive front, it’€™s been a little bit of an adjustment for him. Missing that time didn’€™t help him any.

‘€œHe’€™s worked hard and he’€™s done a good job to get back on the field and get rehabbed and get back out there. He’€™s improving; he’€™s gotten a little better each week. I think he’€™s definitely on the upswing here and a guy that we hope will be able to contribute for us.’€

Read More: Andre Carter, Bill Belichick, Jermaine Cunningham, Shaun Ellis



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