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Belichick on Asante, Mallett & Vereen

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots coach Bill Belichick held his Friday news conference (11 a.m.) prior to the team's practice and touched on a variety of topics. Here is one view of some of the more interesting soundbites:

1. Same old Asante Samuel. Belichick was asked about the presence of Samuel in the Eagles' defensive backfield, touching on his "real good ball skills", instincts, and how he remains a ballhawk in the secondary. The Eagles have played a lot of zone defense this season and Belichick was asked about the familiarity of Tom Brady having faced Samuel in practice. "Tom's thrown against him hundreds of times, so I think he has a good feel for what it's like to play against him," Belichick said.

2. Ryan Mallett and his progress. Jeff Howe of NESN.com dug deep down the roster, asking Belichick about the progress of No. 3 quarterback Ryan Mallett. Belichick seemed to like it and told a story from his days as a Giants assistant when he ran the scout-team offense and came away with a great appreciation for then-rookie Phil Simms and his accuracy. Always enjoy hearing Belichick's stories like this from the past. Belichick wasn't comparing Mallett to Simms, but he did mention that Mallett has made progress this year from a mechanics and physical standpoint. Belichick said the way Mallett has approached his workouts is similar to Tom Brady in 2000 when Brady built up important strength. Also, he said, Mallett "has made some impressive throws in practice."

3. Shane Vereen and his playing time. The rookie running back saw his most extended playing time of the season on offense Monday (10 snaps late in fourth quarter) and Belichick was asked if that was an indication he's turned some type of corner. Belichick said Vereen earned the time while also pointing out that Vereen played as many snaps on special teams (11) and that is always a key. When a player starts to contribute in the kicking game, it opens up more possibilities to play in other areas. Vereen was on the kickoff coverage, punt return and kickoff return units Monday.