Patriots QB Cassel practices, but playing status is unknown

Updated: December 12, 2008, 6:58 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- New England quarterback Matt Cassel practiced for a second straight day following the death of his father earlier this week. But the Patriots declined to say whether he'll play against Oakland on Sunday.

Matt Cassel

Cassel

Coach Bill Belichick addressed the media briefly before Friday's practice at San Jose State and wouldn't describe Cassel's playing status.

"We'll do our thing after practice and let you know," Belichick said.

Cassel briefly left the team on Wednesday after his father, Greg, died Monday night in the Los Angeles area. Cassel was notified of his father's passing on Tuesday, but stayed with the team before flying to Southern California to be with his family.

Though all indications are that Cassel will play against the struggling Raiders, Belichick and the Patriots have yet to say.

New England (8-5) is in a three-way tie with Miami and the New York Jets for the AFC East lead with three games to go. After playing in Oakland to wrap up their weeklong stay in Northern California, the Patriots return home to host Arizona before closing the regular season at Buffalo.

Cassel has completed 64 percent of his passes since taking over for the injured Tom Brady in the season opener. He has thrown for 3,052 yards, with 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. If he is unable to play against Oakland, rookie Kevin O'Connell would likely start.

"He seems to be doing really good," teammate Ty Warren said of Cassel. "Guys in the locker room have been supporting him. He's our family. What he's dealing with is a difficult thing but we're here for him."

While Cassel's situation remains uncertain, Warren is hopeful of playing more this week, although he figures to be limited to running downs after missing three of the Patriots' past four games with a groin strain.

"I've been very honest and swallowed my pride and told the coaches, 'I'm really no good to you on passing downs," said Warren, New England's left defensive end who is still tied for fifth on the team with 58 tackles despite being slowed by the injury for the past month. "I'm very close and that's a good thing. The injury is the injury. It's going to get taken care of at the end of the season."

Warren was injured during New England's 20-10 win over Buffalo on Nov. 9 and did not play the following week against the Jets. He returned against Miami but played sparingly and has been on the inactive list each of the past two games.

The Patriots' rush defense has struggled since. After allowing an average of 100 yards on the ground through the first 10 games, New England has been giving up 125.3 yards while going 2-2 in the four games since Warren was injured.

The veteran defensive end, the Patriots' first-round pick in 2003 who signed a five-year extension with the team prior to last year, has resigned himself to being a part-time player the rest of the season.

"I really try to practice patience and I've had to do that," Warren said. "Coach Bill, the doctors and myself came up with a legitimate strategy as far as managing this injury, trying to get through the season with it. If I can play, I want to play. That's my mentality."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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