The Patriots aren't buying into the hype that Chris Johnson's best years are behind. They look at the Titans running back and still see "CJ2K," not the half-off version that emerged last year following a lengthy holdout.
"It was a down year for him, but it was still a good year," linebacker Jerod Mayo said. "Especially in the fourth quarter, he would break a lot of runs in the fourth quarter. We have to stay focused on him, it's going to take 11 guys and that's our goal."
New England has had some issues this week preparing for Johnson. The only guy on the roster that has the speed to simulate Johnson in practice, rookie running back Jeff Demps, was placed on injured reserve last week with a leg injury.
So, instead, the defense is focusing heavily on staying disciplined and creating as much pressure as possible at the point of attack in an effort to take away the space Johnson has to cut back and take off in the other direction.
“He's dangerous,” Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington said. “He's as dangerous as he ever was. He'll take it up the middle, bounce it out, take it on the edge and hit the home run. We have to be very, very disciplined this week and try to do a great job of setting the edge. It should be a great challenge for us.”
Welker unconcerned: Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker played 16 snaps during the preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints and didn't touch the field again as he missed a game to attend a funeral and the starters rested during the other dates. He isn't concerned.
Welker said he's where he needs to be physically, but admitted it will take him a few weeks to get used to taking hits. "I'd rather not have to take any hits at all. It's part of the game. I think going into the season those first few weeks are a little rougher. As your body gets used to it, it gets a little better."
Injury report: RB Shane Vereen (foot) was the only player who did not participate in Thursday's practice.
OL Nick McDonald (shoulder) returned in a limited capacity after missing practice throughout the week. TE Daniel Fells (shin), CB Sterling Moore (knee) and OT Sebastian Vollmer (back) were also limited.
S Patrick Chung (shoulder) was once again a full participant.