Patriots guard Neal placed on IR with injured shoulder

The New England Patriots' offensive line has been made up of moving parts all season, and as the highly anticipated Monday night matchup with the New York Jets approaches, it will have to win without Stephen Neal.

The right guard was placed on season-ending injured reserve Thursday after missing the last three games with a shoulder injury. Dan Connolly, who started at left guard while Logan Mankins held out over his contract, has been playing in Neal's spot.

Neal has been New England's starting right guard since 2004, but he has missed games because of injury every year since 2006. He originally signed with the Patriots in 2001 as an undrafted free agent out of Cal State-Bakersfield, where he was a championship wrestler. After being waived by the Patriots, he had a brief stint on the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad before joining New England's 53-man roster in December 2001.

Last season, Neal was part of an offensive line that allowed just 18 sacks, the fewest by a Patriots squad since the NFL moved to a 16-game schedule in 1978.

On Monday night, the Patriots' veteran offensive line must face a Jets defense that is showing improvement in pressuring the quarterback. With three sacks in last Thursday's 26-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Jets have nine in four games -- and at least one in each game this season. New York has 11 players with at least one sack, led by Jason Taylor, who has four.

In the last five games, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been sacked just three times while throwing 12 touchdown passes and no interceptions. That's a drastic turnaround from a three-game stretch in which he was sacked 10 times.

The Patriots also announced that they were awarded running back Thomas Clayton off waivers from the Cleveland Browns.

Clayton was with the Patriots in training camp after signing June 11. He was released Sept. 4, then signed to the Browns' practice squad 10 days later. The Patriots signed him to their 53-player roster Sept. 30, but released him Oct. 23. The Browns then re-signed him on Oct. 26.

Clayton was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the sixth round out of Kansas State in 2007. He spent the first two years on the 49ers' practice squad and last season on injured reserve.

Notes:Patriots CB Jonathan Wilhite (hip) and DEs Myron Pryor (back) and DE Mike Wright (neck, concussion) didn't practice Thursday. ... Brady (right shoulder, foot) was limited.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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