Depth at OLB in the spotlight

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots opened training camp thin at outside linebacker/rush defensive end, as third-year player Shawn Crable was released and veteran Derrick Burgess unexpectedly did not report.

The ranks got a bit thinner Tuesday afternoon when Marques Murrell was carted off the field at the end of practice. The severity of Murrell's condition is unclear. (update: Murrell was carted off for a heat-related cramping-type issue)

But what seemed to be clear is that the Patriots planned to play Murrell -- a four-year veteran whose primary contributions have come on special teams -- quite a bit in the preseason opener as he had taken a lot of repetitions in Tuesday's two practices.

If Murrell can not play Thursday night against the Saints, it leaves the Patriots dangerously short at the position, with the following players:

Tully Banta-Cain

Rob Ninkovich

Jermaine Cunningham

Pierre Woods

One of the things coaches pay close attention to early in camp is overtaxing certain players; the preference is to bring them along gradually. If Murrell is not an option to practice or play, the team will have to carefully manage the few players remaining at outside linebacker/rush defensive end.