FOXBOROUGH — A number of players had a hand in getting the Patriots past the Ravens in the AFC Championship game last season and into Super Bowl XLVI. Nothing more important, perhaps, than Sterling Moore’s hand. Literally.
Moore broke up a pass that Ravens receiver Lee Evans appeared to be pulling in for a last-minute touchdown. Blindly, Moore tomahawked with his right hand around Evans’s body, jarring the ball loose, and preserving the Patriots’ 3-point lead. When Billy Cundiff missed a game-tying field goal, the Patriots were off to the Super Bowl, with Moore hailed as one of the heroes. One play changed everything.
“I thought about that at the end of last season, once the Super Bowl was over. It was definitely a big play, it could have been one of those make-or-break plays for me being here on the team or in the NFL,” Moore said. “I’m glad I’m still here and they’re giving me an opportunity to play. Now I’m trying to build on that.”
Moore wasn’t even on the team a year ago — he was signed Oct. 5 after being released by Oakland — but showed enough as a cornerback (and occasionally at safety) to warrant significant playing time, especially in the postseason.
Now he’s had the opportunity to participate in the team’s offseason program, go through a full training camp and preseason schedule. Moore played in the first two games, as a defensive substitute, contributor in the nickel package, and on special teams.
He might still be known in these parts for one play, and that’s fine. But he’s hoping to stick around long enough to generate some more highlights.
Hernandez can scoot
It’s too early to tell how long it will be before Aaron Hernandez is spotted on the field again, but he was seen and heard in the locker room before Friday’s practice. Limping noticeably on his injured right ankle — shuffling might be a more apt description — Hernandez showed off a scooter he’s presumably used to get around, complete with a basket in the front that contained two containers of yogurt and, jokingly, an AAA sticker.
“It’s my sweet ride,” Hernandez said, before slipping into a walking boot.
More for Welker?
Hernandez’s absence might — repeat, might — allow Wes Welker to have a more prominent role Sunday night at Baltimore. Much has been made all week of Welker’s reduced snap count, compared with past seasons, and whether it’s a sign that one of the NFL’s most productive receivers isn’t as important to the offense anymore.
Welker didn’t weigh in on that Friday, but did acknowledge that with Hernandez out, it could have an impact on his playing time and passes thrown his way.
“I think everybody is going to have to pick up the slack with Aaron being out,” Welker said. “Obviously, I want to be out there as much as possible. However I can contribute to help us win, that’s my job.”
In four games as a Patriot against the Ravens (he missed the 2009 season playoff loss after injuring his knee), Welker hasn’t fared well. He’s averaged 5.5 receptions against Baltimore, for 53, 53, 48, and 18 yards, without any touchdowns.
Work for Winslow
Coach Bill Belichick said it was too early to know if tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. will be in position to contribute against the Ravens, since he’s only been with the Patriots three days. But he didn’t rule it out.
“I think we’ll get a good indication today. We’ve thrown a lot at him the last couple days,” Belichick said. “He’s a pretty experienced guy, he’s smart, he’s had a lot of football. We’ll see how it goes, but I think there’s a chance he could help us.”
Mayo fined $21k
Jerod Mayo’s hit on a defenseless Cardinals receiver has cost the Patriots linebacker $21,000, with a league spokesman confirming the fine Friday. Defensive back Steve Gregory was fined $7,875. Gregory was flagged for a personal foul penalty when he hit Arizona tight end Todd Heap while out of bounds. Mayo, who drilled Early Doucet, was not flagged for his hit . . . Those holding on to memories of last season might think Brian Waters, but to many Patriots fans, jersey No. 54 belongs to Tedy Bruschi. Another linebacker has that number now, but even though he’s just a rookie, Dont’a Hightower knows the significance. “It’s definitely an honor. “I know what this number means to this organization, so I’m going to try to go out and play as hard as I can,” Hightower said . . . Hernandez and defensive tackle Justin Francis (also an ankle injury) have been ruled out against Baltimore. Ten players are questionable: offensive linemen Dan Connolly (concussion), Nick McDonald (shoulder), Logan Mankins (hip), and Sebastian Vollmer (back), cornerbacks Sterling Moore (knee) and Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), running back Shane Vereen (foot), tight end Daniel Fells (shin), defensive end Brandon Deaderick (ankle), and receiver Brandon Lloyd (thigh). All 10 were limited during Friday’s practice,. which was behind Gillette Stadium, the players in shorts and shells. Safety Patrick Chung, who has practiced fully all week, is probable with a shoulder injury. Tackle Jah Reid (calf) is the only Ravens player listed as doubtful.