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Linebacking corps will need someone to step up with loss of Fletcher

If a team can get through the preseason without sustaining any majorinjuries to any of its key players, it's considered a success.

If a team can get through the preseason without sustaining any major injuries to any of its key players, it's considered a success.

After one game, the Patriots can't call their preseason a complete success.

Third-year linebacker Dane Fletcher went down in the first quarter, and it was later reported that he tore his ACL, essentially ending his season before it barely began.

Fletcher made the Patriots as an undrafted free agent out of camp two seasons ago, playing mostly special teams to start.

We know what Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes can do. Those two will continue to be forces at the linebacker position. Rookie Dont'a Hightower looks like he could start as well, and could slide into the middle linebacker role that Fletcher had.

Two other players, though, veteran Bobby Carpenter and practice squad player Mike Rivera, could see their roles increased greatly.

"Well, I think they're a little bit at opposite ends for comparison," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "Bobby is a very experienced player. He's been with several teams. He's played inside and outside in the 3-4, he's played the different positions in the 4-3 and nickel defenses, he has a lot of experience in the kicking game."

Carpenter, 29, has made 165 tackles -- 126 solo -- in 89 career games, including 3.5 sacks since being drafted in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2006 NFL Draft. Rivera, 26, has yet to play in an NFL game, but the Patriots like him.

"Mike is a player that is trying to work his way up from the other end. He was on our practice squad last year; wasn’t in training camp for us but had a good year on the practice squad and did enough things that we re-signed him this season and he’s been very competitive in camp. We’re trying to give him some opportunities to see what he can do and how effective he can be doing it. But he’s certainly well ahead of where he was last year because of the spring practices, the OTAs and being here in training camp, so he knows our system a lot better.”






 
 
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