FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – It’s not easy to crack the roster of the two-time defending Super Bowl champions. In a surprise, Mike Wright did just that.

Wright, a rookie free agent defensive lineman from Cincinnati, survived Saturday’s final roster cutdown to earn a spot with the New England Patriots, who open their season Thursday night at home against Oakland.

Wright beat out fifth-year end Rodney Bailey, who never played a regular-season game for the Patriots after signing in 2004. Bailey suffered a season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury in last year’s training camp.

“As the preseason went on, I just kept trying to produce, and I think I did a little bit of that,” said Wright, a former walk-on at Cincinnati. “I just did what I could do. I went out there every day and gave it my all.”

Coach Bill Belichick said Wright had a “good, productive preseason” in leading the Patriots with 3.5 sacks and tying for third in tackles. Belichick said Wright also stood out on special teams – a rarity for a lineman.

“He had some production rushing the passer. He has some good playing strength in the running game,” Belichick said. “He’s a young guy who’s got a long way to go, got a lot to learn.

“We just put them all out there and let them compete and we thought that he competed well,” the coach continued. “The fact that he’s durable and stayed out there every day gave him a chance to get better and improve on a day-to-day basis.”

Durability hasn’t been Wright’s strong suit. He redshirted his first year at Cincinnati and then missed the 2002 season with a knee injury. A shoulder problem also cost him some time, and he said several NFL teams, including Carolina, were scared off by his injury history.

The Patriots signed him after the draft and have used him at both nose tackle and defensive end.

“That’s all I wanted,” Wright said. “That’s what everybody wants – a chance, an opportunity to reach your final goal, your highest level.”

New England had good success with another undrafted free agent last year as cornerback Randall Gay from LSU wound up starting in the Super Bowl.

While Wright made his mark, veteran receiver David Terrell did not. The eighth overall pick in the 2001 draft by Chicago, Terrell was released by the Bears in the offseason and signed with the Patriots. He was looking for a fresh start in New England, where he was reunited with quarterback Tom Brady, his former college teammate at Michigan.

However, Terrell suffered an undisclosed injury early in training camp. He missed the first two preseason games and failed to beat out to fellow free agent Tim Dwight and Andre Davis, who was acquired in a trade with Cleveland last month.

“I love David as a person and as a player,” Brady said. “We spent a lot of great times together. It’s always a tough time of year because you develop relationships with people and it’s hard to see them go, especially someone you have a history with.”

AP-ES-09-04-05 1703EDT

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