The stat sheet didn’t show it - officially he was credited with only a quarterback hit - but Albert Haynesworth had an impact in Sunday’s win over the Cowboys, as he and the rest of the Patriots’ interior defensive linemen did a good job of pushing the pocket and making things uncomfortable for Tony Romo.
After missing two games with a back issue, Haynesworth has played in the last two games. He was not a factor against the Jets, but he was against the Cowboys.
Coach Bill Belichick credited Haynesworth’s return to practice for the step up in his play.
“I think missed time is a little bit of a hurdle for anybody,’’ Belichick said. “I think Albert has been . . . the more regularly he’s practiced and played, the better he’s been. I thought he had several good plays [Sunday]. It was encouraging.’’
Having Haynesworth at practice means he can take reps alongside Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, and Gerard Warren, and the players can learn from each other and about each other, how they play on the field, and how best to communicate.
That interior line group, director of player personnel Nick Caserio said yesterday, is playing well of late.
“Since Albert’s been able to get back on the field, he has made a few plays in each of the past couple games,’’ Caserio said. “Really the whole front four - the interior defensive linemen if you will - those guys all played well [Sunday].
“Kyle had his share of plays. Vince almost . . . he’s trying to get up there in the league leaders with interceptions. He got his hands on another ball. Gerard made a few plays. Albert made a few plays, so when those guys are out there, they can present some problems.
“I think the more Albert has practiced and been able to work on some of the techniques and some of the things that we’re doing, then that starts to carry over into the game. It’s a good start. [There is] still a long way to go here, but certainly it’s encouraging with some of the things that he has done.’’
Continued health for Haynesworth is a positive for the Patriots defense, which played its best game of the season against a dangerous Dallas offense.
Clearing the way?
The Patriots released defensive backs Ross Ventrone and Sterling Moore; both played against the Cowboys. They are eligible to return to the team on the practice squad provided they clear waivers.
That leaves two open roster spots, and with NFL teams able to activate players from their physically unable to perform lists beginning this week, the Patriots could be clearing space for players on their list: Ron Brace, Marcus Cannon, Brandon Deaderick, and Kevin Faulk.
Faulk is a year removed from ACL surgery and has been highly involved with the day-to-day doings of the team since re-signing during training camp. The running back is a front-runner to be activated.
Yesterday, during his contractually obligated weekly appearance on WEEI, quarterback Tom Brady called Faulk “probably the most clutch player I’ve ever played with’’ and said he’s really looking forward to seeing Faulk and his No. 33 jersey back on the practice field.
Also, while the league trading deadline is this afternoon, it is believed a deal is unlikely for the Patriots. Belichick said on his conference call that nothing is in the works.
A wrap on issue
During Sunday’s game, Brady was spotted wearing a wrap/ice bag on his right arm when he was on the sideline; it appeared shortly after his 5-yard scramble in the second quarter.
Brady slid a bit late on the play, and may have taken a hit on his way to the ground. Yesterday he said the wrap was “just a little precautionary; nothing to worry about.’’
Brady didn’t miss a snap.
New Orleans coach Sean Payton Sunday suffered the kind of injury that would knock one of his players out for the season when Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was tackled into him on the sideline. Payton’s left knee bent backward; he tore his meniscus and fractured a bone. He underwent surgery yesterday.
Though Belichick never has been hurt as seriously as Payton, he’s taken a few hits in his time.
“I’ve been run over on the sideline before,’’ he said. “Guys are moving fast. Sometimes you’re not actually looking. It’s happened to me many times where you’re not actually looking at the guy who ends up hitting you - you’re watching another part of the play.
“There’s a reason why everybody tries to stay back on the sideline. I have a lot of respect for those collisions, trust me.’’Shalise Manza Young can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.