FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colvin are unusual players on the New England Patriots defense. They have no crutches or bandaged hands.

The two linebackers have stayed healthy on a unit beset by injuries that have landed three defensive backs on injured reserve, hampered two other linebackers and sidelined its best defensive lineman the past two games.

“If you’re saying that we’d like to have the same 11 guys out there for 10 straight weeks to end the season, obviously,” Vrabel said, “but you know that’s not going to happen.”

The three-time Super Bowl champs are 3-3 and don’t even have a game this weekend, but more bad news surfaced Thursday when cornerback Tyrone Poole appeared in the locker room on crutches. He has played in only the first game of the season before hurting his ankle but took part in practice last week.

He wouldn’t discuss the injury and referred questioners to coach Bill Belichick.

Belichick already had conducted his daily briefing without mentioning Poole.

“It’s not frustrating,” said Poole, who began last season as a starter but was sidelined for most of it. “Football is not my life.”

Another reminder of the rash of injuries, safety Rodney Harrison, walked through the locker room. He’s out for the season with a knee injury suffered in the third game and is awaiting surgery.

“I’m doing good,” he said, “just hanging out and trying to rehab a little bit and get better, spending some time at home, doing fine.”

He repeated his determination to play next season. For now, the corps of experienced defenders is thinning, but Colvin said that doesn’t expand his role to help others line up in the proper spots.

“Everybody has their own individual responsibilities,” he said. “When you start worrying about somebody else’s job or worrying about what somebody else is or isn’t doing, then your house is not clean. So you just have to focus on your job.”

Colvin broke his hip in the third game of 2003, his first year with the Patriots. He returned last season and now appears to be at full strength.

Another veteran linebacker, Willie McGinest, isn’t. The team says he has an injured finger. He played with part of his right hand taped in last Sunday’s 28-20 loss at Denver. The covering was there at Thursday’s practice.

Inside linebacker Monty Beisel missed part of that game and said he had a hand infection.

Vrabel, normally an outside linebacker, moved inside for part of the Denver game and led the Patriots with 13 tackles. But with their secondary depleted, the Patriots have just one interception all season.

“It’s a situation where you’ve got to jell pretty quick,” Vrabel said. “The new guys have got to come in and the guys that have been in there have got to pick their play up.”

There are some encouraging signs.

Defensive end Richard Seymour, a Pro Bowl player in three of his four pro seasons, missed the last two games with a knee injury but said he’ll play in the next one Oct. 30 against Buffalo.

Tedy Bruschi, who had a mild stroke in February, practiced for the first time since then on Wednesday and again on Thursday. He had been working out regularly with other players in their weight room.

“It really wasn’t that big of a surprise to me,” Colvin said. “because he’s around us all day long. So had he been gone overseas or somewhere and then come back and I didn’t know he was coming … it would be different.”

The sight of Bruschi in a game would be more exciting – and he hopes to play against Buffalo – especially on a defense that has struggled because of injuries and inconsistency.

“It was fun” to practice again with Bruschi, Vrabel said. “It’s just great to see that smile and him back out there. It’s cool.”

AP-ES-10-20-05 1659EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.