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Poteat replaces Law on roster

FOXBORO, Mass. -- NFL MVP Peyton Manning is coming to town,
and the New England Patriots are calling in all the help they can
find.

The Patriots signed unemployed cornerback Hank Poteat on Monday,
making him eligible for Sunday's divisional playoff game against the
Indianapolis Colts and their record-setting quarterback. Poteat
takes the roster spot that opened when Ty Law was placed on injured
reserve last week.

"It's certainly not an ideal situation at this point, but we'll
do what we think is best," coach Bill Belichick said before the
signing was announced.

Law had not played since Oct. 31. Tyrone Poole, the other
starting cornerback from the beginning of the season, has been out
since the fourth week of the season and Asante Samuel has also
spent time on the injury report, as have safeties Eugene Wilson and
Randall Gay.

The injuries have forced the Patriots to use wide receiver Troy
Brown as a fifth defensive back. Poteat, who also returns punts,
could give Brown a rest or he could serve as backup.

"We've got guys in there that aren't our usual starters,"
lineman Willie McGinest said. "But we've got confidence in the
guys that are there."

Belichick did not comment on the signing during his media
availability on Monday. But Colts coach Tony Dungy wasn't about to
assume that the Patriots will be pushovers.

"They're in disarray enough to have won 14 games," he said.
"They've got good players and are a well-coached unit, and we are
awfully hot."

Manning earned his second consecutive NFL MVP award on Monday
after a season in which he threw 49 touchdown passes and had a
quarterback rating of 121.1 -- both NFL records. With his quick
release and ability to read defenses, he can pick apart the most
accomplished secondary.

But the Patriots have stymied him.

Last year in the AFC Championship Game, New England picked
Manning off four times -- three of them by Law -- to beat the Colts
24-14. In this season's opener, McGinest sacked Manning for 12
yards on the final drive and Mike Vanderjagt missed a 48-yard field
goal to tie it.

"We know they've been waiting on this game since last year,"
McGinest said. "So here it is. It's going to be a great show."

In all, the Colts are 2-9 against the Patriots under Manning and
winless in their last five tries. But Belichick shot down a
suggestion that he had figured out how to stop Manning.

"Nobody wants to see me on the field against Peyton Manning,"
Belichick snickered. "Not me, not any fan. Nobody except the
Colts."

Terms of Poteat's deal were not disclosed.

Poteat, who has been out of the NFL since being released by
Carolina in the preseason, played in 41 games over three NFL
seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and one game for the Tampa Bay
Buccaneers. He has played in two playoff games, starting for the
Steelers in the 2002 wild-card game.

Poteat was waived by the Steelers before the 2003 season and
signed with Tampa Bay. He played one game for the Buccaneers before
he was released on Nov. 12, 2003. He signed with the Panthers
before the 2004 season and played in two preseason games before he
was released.