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Sports

September 21, 2013

Patriots prepare for a veteran QB ­‑ for a change

FOXBOROUGH — Rookie quarterbacks haven’t exactly made life simple for New England’s defense this season.

The Patriots finally will face a veteran Sunday, though, and they’re quite familiar with Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman.

“He’s a big guy. I didn’t realize how big he was,” New England defensive end Rob Ninkovich said. “Until you see him in person, you realize he’s 6-5, 6-6. Big presence in the pocket.”

Ninkovich was speaking from plenty of firsthand experience.

New England and Tampa Bay held joint practices each of the last two training camps. And contrary to facing a pair of first-year signal-callers in Buffalo’s EJ Manuel and the New York Jets’ Geno Smith, there is plenty of tape to watch on the fifth-year Freeman.

There’s been more than enough time to prepare, too. Sunday will mark 10 days since the Patriots (2-0) last played a game.

“The more film you have of somebody, obviously, the easier it is,” Patriots safety Steve Gregory said.

Nothing has been easy for New England. And Tampa Bay (0-2) isn’t about to change that.

Between Freeman, explosive running back Doug Martin and 6-foot-5, 230-pound receiver Vincent Jackson, the Patriots are in for another test despite the Buccaneers’ record.

“We have our hands full with (Martin) and Vincent Jackson. There’s no letdown with those two on the field,” Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us. But at the same time, every week it feels like it’s something different.

“But that’s football. You get challenged in different ways every week. It’s going to be different from the first two weeks for us.”

But it starts and ends with the tough-to-tackle Freeman. Despite rumors that he wants to be traded, coupled with a poor start to the season, Freeman still poses a threat to New England’s defense.

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