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Thomas' injury may give Pats another big hole to fill

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Adalius Thomas is the latest Patriots starter who might miss time after the linebacker suffered what could be a long-term arm injury.

Thomas didn't return after leaving the Patriots' 20-10 win over the Buffalo Bills midway through the second quarter Sunday.

Age: 31

Height: 6-2  Weight: 270

College: Southern Mississippi

Experience: 9th season

Team spokesman Stacey James said Monday the next injury update would come after Tuesday's practice. A spokesman for Thomas' agent, James "Bus" Cook Jr., said the player had not returned a phone call to Cook.

"I think it'll be difficult" to replace Thomas, said Mike Vrabel, the team's other starting outside linebacker. "He was a leader. He was a veteran guy that played well and we'll just have to find guys to step up."

Thomas leads the Patriots with five sacks in his second season with the team. He was a rookie on Baltimore's team that won the Super Bowl after the 2000 season and was chosen for Pro Bowls in 2003 and 2006.

The Patriots already have lost safety Rodney Harrison for the season with a torn quadriceps in his right thigh. Two key players on offense also are out for the season: quarterback Tom Brady with a knee injury suffered in the opener and running back Laurence Maroney with a shoulder injury.

Still, the Patriots (6-3) are tied for the AFC East lead with the New York Jets heading into those teams' matchup Thursday night.

Pierre Woods, a third-year pro from Michigan, took over for Thomas on Sunday and likely will get his first pro start against the Jets.

"It's definitely an opportunity," said Woods, who has played 33 games since the Patriots signed him as an undrafted free agent. "So just go out there and do my job and I think I'll be fine."

As the injuries pile up, players keep repeating Belichick's message to them: Don't do anything special, just do your job.

"We've been through this before; '03, '04 had been the same thing" with numerous injuries, defensive end Jarvis Green said. "Guys just filling in and playing their role, that's part of the game. It happens and we have to make the best of what we have in this locker room."

Thomas played some inside linebacker last season when the Patriots had Rosevelt Colvin on the outside. Colvin signed as a free agent with Houston, but was released in late August in the final preseason roster cut.

He recovered from a foot injury suffered last season and is available if the Patriots want to add depth.

The Patriots' success despite injuries to top players doesn't amaze cornerback Ellis Hobbs.

"I was never amazed," he said. "Any time you lose a player, especially an impact player like (Thomas), it hurts. But he'll tell you himself: the machine can't stop. It has to keep on rolling."

And he's not amazed that so many outstanding Patriots have been hurt.

"You're asking a dude that gets hurt a lot about injuries. It happens, man," said Hobbs, who had offseason surgery on his left shoulder and for a sports hernia. "It's a physical league, big guys running around, big, fast guys that are trying to hurt people.

"You expect it to happen (and) hope you took out your insurance policy and keep on moving, man."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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