Cassel Fighting For A Role

More News and notes coming out of Foxboro. Top camp battle, injury news and other notes from camp.

PLAYER NOTES:
--OL John Welbourn signed with New England Aug. 4. The nine-year veteran has played in 103 career games with 95 starts in his time in Philadelphia (1999-03) and Kansas City (2004-07). The 6-5, 310-pound former fourth-round pick started every game for the Chiefs last fall.
--DL Chris Norwell was released Aug. 4. The rookie free agent out of Illinois had signed with the team May 2.
--LB Mike Vrabel was activated from PUP on Tuesday and took part in that day's practice work. The linebacker did not play in the preseason opener against the Ravens.
--SS/LB Tank Williams was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury on Saturday. The first-year Patriot, who had spent time at both linebacker and safety with the first defense during training camp, hurt the knee in the preseason opener against the Ravens.
--CB Jeff Shoate signed with New England Saturday. The former fifth-round pick (2004, Denver) has played in 14 career NFL games. The 5-11, 180-pounder played in seven games last season for the Broncos before being released in December.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Matt Cassel vs. Matt Gutierrez for backup QB spot -- Neither player has much experience. Neither player played all that well in the preseason opener against the Ravens, a game in which Cassel got the start and Gutierrez was first off the bench. But as of right now, one of the two is in line to back up reigning NFL MVP Tom Brady. Cassel, now in his fourth year, seems to have flat-lined in his development. In just his second season, Gutierrez is still showing some improvement. In the end, there's likely only room for one of the two on the roster behind Brady and ahead of third-round developmental prospect Kevin O'Connell. Every rep from this point on through cuts could be critical for this inexperienced duo.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Cornerback jobs aren't any more defined two weeks into camp and after one preseason game than they were heading into summer action. Free agent addition Fernando Bryant got the start last Thursday, but got picked on early by Kyle Boller and Co. Second-round pick Terrence Wheatley also got the start and played well. The other corners battling for jobs and playing time -- returning starter Ellis Hobbs, fourth-round pick Jonathan Wilhite, free agent addition Jason Webster and Mike Richardson -- all sat out the preseason opener due to injury. It continues to look like the competition at cornerback will go down to the wire and could very well continue into the season before roles at the spot get defined.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Jerod Mayo -- In a little over a week, Mayo went from second-team reps to flying around the preseason game field as one of the more impressive starters on the starting defense. The No. 10 overall pick looks like he's the real deal and a potential impact player from day one as an inside linebacker in Bill Belichick's 3-4 scheme. Against the Ravens, he showed good instincts in the passing game and a physically dominating approach to the run game. He also continues to impress coaches and teammates alike with his film study and mental work between practices. It's still very early, but Mayo is standing out in his first month in New England.

ROOKIE REPORT: LB Jerod Mayo got the start in his first preseason game and looked comfortable with the top defense. He was around the ball the entire first half, finishing with three tackles. ... CB Terrence Wheatley also got the start against the Ravens and played nearly the entire game thanks to injuries in the New England secondary. The rookie more than held his own in his first NFL action. ... LB Shawn Crable got a ton of reps in the preseason opener, replacing Adalius Thomas at OLB early in the first half. Crable recorded an interception, a sack and seems to be getting more comfortable playing up on two feet and in space with every rep he gets. ... LB Gary Guyton, an undrafted free agent, saw significant playing time in the preseason opener. He had a solid game on defense, but opened eyes with what Bill Belichick termed an "effort" play chasing down Yamon Figurs on a potential punt-return TD at the 2-yard line.

INJURY REPORT: CB Jonathan Wilhite left a practice last week with a leg injury and missed the preseason opener.
CB Jason Webster has been out of action since the second day of camp with an undisclosed injury.
LT Matt Light hasn't practiced since July 26, no reason for the absence has been given.
SS Tank Williams limped off during the preseason opener with a knee injury and was subsequently placed on injured reserve.
WR Sam Aiken also suffered a knee injury against the Ravens.
S James Sanders has missed more than a week with an undisclosed injury.
TE David Thomas returned to action and played in the preseason opener after missing a week of camp with an apparent ankle injury.

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