FOXBOROUGH — Second-year receiver Aaron Dobson has been inactive for three games, despite not being listed on the injury report since the regular season began.
According to a league source, Dobson has been inactive for the last two games because he has had at least one loud disagreement with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
There are concerns that Dobson, a second-round pick out of Marshall last year, is immature, though he isn't the first NFL player with maturity issues.
As a rookie, Dobson had 37 catches for 519 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games. He underwent foot surgery in the offseason that led to him missing spring camps and limited him in training camp.
In his one appearance this season, against Minnesota, the 23-year old West Virginia native had one catch for 13 yards. He was targeted twice.
Belichick makes point clear
Bill Belichick spoke for 18 minutes Wednesday morning, but the entire news conference boiled down to four words: "We're on to Cincinnati."
The Patriots coach and de facto general manager did not take kindly to a line of questioning about the talent level on his roster, as evidenced by these answers.
Q: Is it difficult to react to the adversity of Monday night, and get back on track for Sunday?
A: We're on to Cincinnati.
Q: You mentioned [Tom Brady's] age at the draft . . .
A: (interrupting) We're on to Cincinnati.
Q: Do you think having a 37-year old . . .
A: (interrupting) We're on to Cincinnati. It's not about the past, it's nothing about the future, it's right now we're preparing for Cincinnati.
Q: Do you feel the talent you have is good enough . . .
A: We're trying to get ready to play Cincinnati.
Q: Have you done enough to help Tom Brady . . .
A: (interrupting) We're getting ready for Cincinnati. That's what we're doing.
Q: So as you get ready for Cincinnati, does Tom Brady have the talent and protection around him to play Cincinnati?
A: We're making the game plan, do the best we can, be ready to go Sunday night.
There was more of the same theme as Belichick was asked about the offensive line and whether the Patriots problems can be corrected.
Other than that, Belichick believes the undefeated Bengals are impressive.
"They have a lot of good players, they're well-coached, they're tough, they're physical, they're explosive. It's been a while since we've seen a team as complete as they are," Belichick said.
After giving a glowing review of Cincinnati, how would Belichick characterize his own team?
"You can talk to [Bengals] coach [Marvin] Lewis about that. Our job is to identify our opponent and prepare both in the classroom and on the practice field and then film study to play," Belichick said. "That's what we're doing with Cincinnati."
Video: Bill Belichick says “We’re on to Cincinnati”
Bill Belichick answers questions about his team with a simple “we’re onto Cincinnati”
Brady also got his share of questions about the offense and whether he feels he is past his prime.
While he did say he trusts all of the guys in the locker room, Brady also used a lot of "we'll sees" and "I don't knows" and made several mentions of the team's 2-2 record.
As to whether the problems of the offense are correctable, Brady said, "I hope they're correctable. That's what we're trying to do. That's why we go out and practice.
"There are always going to be mistakes in football. Every team is very competitive. They have very good players. They draft high. They've got a lot of talent. They have the same money they can spend on their team as we can spend on ours.
"It's a tough league. When you don't play well, certainly [when] you don't on the road — we got off to a slow start, got behind — those are things that we've got to try to correct. We've got to try to certainly do a better job playing from ahead and try to get ahead and stay ahead. It's a great opportunity for us this week to do that. This is a team that also likes to get ahead and stay ahead. They've done that in all their games this year. That's why they've been pretty successful."
It was an interesting response, particularly Brady referencing teams spending money — a major point of contention in recent weeks, especially among fans, has been New England's $14.3 million in salary cap space.
Only two Patriots were wearing numbered jerseys for the team's walkthrough practice on Wednesday inside the field house behind Gillette Stadium.
While everyone else was in T-shirts or sweatshirts that could bring some semblance of anonymity, the two Patriots letting everyone know who they are were the two who became eligible to practice this week.
Cornerback Brandon Browner (No. 39) and receiver Brian Tyms (No. 84) had served four-game suspensions handed down by the NFL, rejoining the Patriots for practice Tuesday.
Coincidence that Browner and Tyms were the only players easily identifiable? Likely not.
In the open locker room period prior to practice, both Browner and Tyms declined interview requests, with Browner saying he'll speak "after the game." That presumably would mean Sunday night's home game with the Bengals.
The Patriots have one-week roster exemptions for Browner and Tyms, so it's possible neither plays against Cincinnati without there being any roster impact. But if the Patriots add either or both to the 53-man roster, a corresponding move would have to be made.
Though the Patriots held a walkthrough, they were required to submit a practice report. New England listed offensive lineman Cameron Fleming and defensive back Nate Ebner as not participating, both because of finger injuries.
Linebackers Jamie Collins (thigh) and Dont'a Hightower (shoulder), cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (shoulder), and defensive end Chandler Jones (shoulder) were listed as limited participants. Tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee) was listed as a full participant for the first time this season.
The Bengals reported seven players did not practice: linebacker Vontaze Burfict (concussion), defensive ends Robert Geathers (toe) and Margus Hunt (shoulder), receiver Marvin Jones (ankle), guard/center Mike Pollak (knee), defensive tackle Brandon Thompson (knee), and guard Kevin Zeitler (calf). Safety George Iloka (abdomen) was limited.