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Patriots trying their best to find a reason for the preseason

Never a dull moment around the New England Patriots, even in the preseason, right?

Before Thursday night’s 10-3 meaningless practice game win over Carolina at Gillette Stadium, there was the breaking news of Patrick Chung’s cocaine related indictment which took place right here in the Granite State.

That probably added some spice and drama to the otherwise boring preseason. It’s getting more and more difficult, though, to see what happens in these games. The obvious fear is injury. Late Thursday night Panthers quarterback Cam Newton wasn’t exactly looking too chipper as he limped out toward the team bus in the bowels of Gillette Stadium with a walking boot on. He suffered a foot injury on a play when he was sacked in the first quarter and was done for the night.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera certainly was grilled about it, but he said what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt – yet.

“I will find out (the severity of Newton’s injury) when I get done with this press conference,” he said. “Because what I usually do is, I don’t ask any questions, so I can’t answer the injury questions.”

It turns out Newton suffered a sprain and the Panthers are hoping he can be ready for Week 1. But , ah, Rivera gave a more thorough non-answer than we usually hear from his Patriots counterpart, Bill Belichick.

Belichick had to watch one of his own, Brandon King, carted off the field in the first half with what was reported Friday – not by the team – as a season-ending torn quadricep.

But you see why a lot of players on the Patriots and even around the entire league are in bubble wrap for the preseason.

“We never want to see anyone get injured,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “I think we have to do what’s best for the team. We have to prepare our team to play.”

For example, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady likely saw his only action of the preseason Thursday night, playing three series into the second quarter. He certainly won’t be out there next week vs. the Giants. Brady, like others, winces when he sees players go down in the preseason. He saw it last year when then-rookie left tackle Isiah Wynn went down with a torn Achilles in his first preseason game.

“Yeah, it’s always hard to see, and we’ve had our fair share over a lot of years of wtching these games, being part of these games,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. “Guys that you think are going to play a big role over the course of the year, and then in one play, it doesn’t happen that way.

“So it happens in the regular season, too. I mean this is a contact sport and injuries are certainly a part of the game. Other guys are going to have to step in and fill big roles.”

At some point in the coming years, the preseason will change as the NFL pushes against for more regular seaason games. We think three is a good limit. Teams replace the preseason game importance for the veterans with these joint team practices, like the Patriots did with the Lions and Titans.

Most of the other Patriot starters saw what will be their only game action the other night, including those on defense. For the first time in years, the Patriot defense looks better and ahead of the offense.

“I think what it comes down to is preseason is about figuring out how to execute with the new players, and I think that’s what you want to see – how guys come in and execute, what can they do,” Patriot veteran lineman Michael Bennett, who had a sack, said. “I think the real test is the (regular) season because the competition jumps up tremendously. Guys might come in for one or two plays, and when the games are for real, the money’s on the line, the game’s on the line, competition raises to a whole other level.”

What we saw Thursday night looked pretty good, didn’t it?

“We’ve got a lot of good guys who can rush it,” he said, “but like I said it’s seeing how we can execute on Sundays, what the linemen (will do), when we start the lineup for real, I don’t know what that’s going to look like.”

None of us do. The Patriots right now are basically using the preseason to see which of the players from the last two drafts or rookie free agent signings can be effective. Wynn is playing well at left tackle. Receiver Jakobi Meyers clearly has more game chemistry with fellow rookie QB Jarrett Stitham than he has wih Brady, and that will have to change, likely another sign that while his summer has been great, he’ll be the fifth receiver.

Meanwhile, once Chung gets healthy, he’ll probably be able to play with his legan issues pushed off to the side for months. Some have likely benefitted from his absence, including fellow veteran Duron Harmon.

“It was fun out there,” Harmon said.

That’s because he was able to walk off the field at the end of Thursday night’s game and out of Gillette under his own power, without any walking boot, etc. Unlike Newton.

That’s basically the only goal in the NFL’s preseason. Don’t get hurt.

Tom King may be reached at 594-1251,tking@nashuatelegraph.com, or@Telegraph _TomK.