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Sports

August 12, 2010

Patriots-Saints is more than exhibition

FOXBORO — Most often, exhibition football games rank right up there with laundry.

Both are a laborious necessity. The only difference in NFL is the fear factor ... the fear of somebody getting hurt.

Tonight's Patriots-Saints preseason opener (Ch. 4, 7:30 p.m.) might be one of the rare exceptions. This one merits the attention of New England's hungry and impatient football fans.

Two weeks into training camp — after an offseason of recovery from the savage home playoff beating by the Ravens — and the Patriots are a football team riddled with questions.

For the first time since 2001 with Tom Brady under center, more doubt and questions riddle this roster, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Answers will begin to trickle in tonight.

Oh, you'll get your token showings from the superstars.

Expect a series or two from Randy Moss, Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, et al. Maybe, we'll even catch a glimpse out of the medical wonder, Wes Welker.

After that ... suspense, and plenty of it.

Here's what you should be watching for tonight, all over the field.

Up front on "D"

Those who embraced the Richard Seymour deal a year ago might not want to read this paragraph but the foundation of a three-time champion defense is now a severe issue, especially with the doom scenarios surrounding Ty Warren and his reported injured hip.

Warren is "being evaluated by our medical staff and we'll see what becomes of that," said Bill Belichick this week.

All of a sudden, the Pats are left with Pro-Bowler Vince Wilfork, 32-year-old reclamation projects Damione Lewis and Gerard Warren, serviceable Mike Wright, intriguing Myron Pryor and the still unavailable for duty Ron Brace, who hasn't yet passed the physical.

Belichick and defensive boss Pepper Johnson will be looking for anyone who can play here.

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