NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS UPDATE 

lMORE ON MARONEY; LOCAL TAKE REMAINS OPTIMISTIC

Following up on the previous update. ... According to Boston Herald staffer Karen Guregian, uttering the words "getting closer," "making progress" and "game-time decision" was head coach Bill Belichick's way of keeping Laurence Maroney's status a mystery during Friday morning's press conference.

Officially, Maroney is listed on the injury report as "questionable."

And despite ESPN.com insider John Clayton's belief that Maroney won't be ready to go against the Cowboys, Guregian is among the local beat writers, those who cover the team on a daily basis, who say otherwise.

Per Guregian: "The smart money says Maroney will be ready to go for this battle of unbeatens."

Boston Globe staffer Mike Reiss, after watching Maroney go through his paces during the portion of Thursday's practice open to the media wrote: "Maroney looked to be moving well as he made his way through passing drills. ..."

Providence Journal staffer Shalise Manza Young suggested the same. The Sports Xchange advised readers, "Maroney has missed the last two games with a groin injury but he's expected to play this week. ..."

You sensing a trend here?

Still worried about Clayton's dissenting voice? Can I remind you this is the same Clayton who began reporting last Thursday that Giants halfback Derrick Ward wouldn't play against the Jets last Sunday? The same Ward who started ahead of Brandon Jacobs?

While Clayton's reporting in this case could turn out to be correct -- Maroney could wind up sitting out another game -- it's not correct as of today.

And as noted above, there is considerable evidence to the contrary.

"[Belichick] said it's a game-time decision? Then it's a game-time decision. There we go," Maroney said in the locker room Friday.

According to Guregian, Maroney doesn't talk the weeks he doesn't play. And while the above wasn't exactly talking, it seemed like he had just offered up a lecture given his silence the previous few weeks.

The more important clue with regard to his availability tomorrow is this one: How does he look?

Again according to Guregian: "Ready to go."

There is no noticeable limp when he walks or runs. He doesn't favor either leg or side.

Maroney has also been much more noticeable in the locker room, joking around with teammates. Injured players who don't play, or whose status is up in the air, tend to stay out of sight.

Friday, Maroney was front and center. ...

Of course, one could easily argue the Patriots haven't missed Maroney all that much. Not with Sammy Morris piling up 100-yard games in Maroney's absence.

Counting Maroney's 103-yard performance against Buffalo, which was the last game he played, that's three straight games with individual 100-yard rushers, as Morris has hit the century mark the past two weeks against Cincinnati and Cleveland.

When Maroney and Morris were utilized together, both made significant contributions. They provided a great 1-2 punch in the backfield, offering up two different styles.

And as Guregian suggested, the Pats will be better equipped to beat the Cowboys, and their massive defensive front line, with both runners doing their thing. Maroney's speed could be more beneficial against a team like Dallas.

"It's just a matter of doing things smart, whatever the coaches see, whenever they want to get him back," Morris said with regard to Maroney. "As for me, I'm prepared for anything."


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