FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- When looking at the Patriots' roster from a health standpoint during this morning's joint practice with the Falcons, the status of rookie Jermaine Cunningham and the overall outside linebacker position stood out.
Cunningham, one of the team's second-round draft choices (53rd overall), was not on the field. He has missed the team's last three practices and also wasn't spotted at the Sunday morning walkthrough.
Cunningham was injured last Wednesday in a joint practice with the Saints while playing on the punt return team. The actual injury, and the severity of it, is not known. Cunningham did walk off the field under his own power before being checked out by the team's training staff. The injury kept Cunningham out of the preseason opener against the Saints and has since cost him some valuable time on the field, where he had been off to a strong start in camp
With Cunningham out, and starter Tully Banta-Cain also not making the trip to Atlanta after he was banged up in Sunday afternoon's practice (trainers were looking at his right ankle), the Patriots are thin at outside linebacker.
Look for Derrick Burgess to get thrown right into the mix at that spot, with Marques Murrell once again getting a chance for extended playing time. Pierre Woods and Rob Ninkovich round out the depth chart, with Eric Alexander an emergency/depth option to help get through a preseason game.