By Michael Felger/ Patriots Notebook
Thursday, November 4, 2004

FOXBORO - St. Louis coach Mike Martz is aware of the Patriots [stats, news]' injury situation - and he isn't about to be fooled by it.

``The best thing you should do is always assume they are going to play at the same level. If you make any other assumption, you are going to get your butts beat,'' said Martz. ``We went to San Francisco a year ago, and they lost their quarterback and they were starting a guy (Tim Rattay) who hadn't played before and this guy is out and that guy - and we got embarrassed (30-10 final).''

Of course, Martz has a history with Bill Belichick [news], losing to the Pats in the Super Bowl and then being one of the driving forces behind the NFL's crackdown on illegal contact two years later. But yesterday Martz and Belichick did nothing but express mutual respect for one another. Belichick said he holds Martz' passing game in such high esteem that he takes time every offseason to study it and incorporate elements into the Pats' offense.

As for revenge from Super Bowl XXXVI, Martz said that's taken a major back seat to keeping the Rams (4-3) in the playoff race.

``Payback really isn't an issue with me. We are just trying to keep our head above water,'' he said. ``If we were better, then maybe I would consider (it). I think if we were ever fortunate enough to see each other again in the Super Bowl, then maybe that would be something to think about.''

Givens makes the list

The injury report brought more bad news as receiver David Givens [news] was added as questionable with a knee injury. Givens scored the Pats' only two touchdowns in Pittsburgh, but he apparently hurt himself on the second one - a diving 23-yard catch in the end zone.

Deion Branch [news] (knee) remained doubtful while Tom Ashworth (back), Troy Brown [news] (shoulder), Corey Dillon (thigh), Larry Izzo (knee) and Patrick Pass (thigh) were questionable. The team reported that all of the above players missed portions of team practice. . . .

The key this week is taking care of the ball after four turnovers in Pittsburgh.

``(The Rams) feed off that,'' said quarterback Tom Brady [news]. ``You give those guys a short field, you can bet that they are going to be putting it in. That's a big point of emphasis this week as it is every week. That level of concentration needs to go up.''

Poole won't rush it

Tyrone Poole, who originally hurt his right knee in Buffalo in Week 4, admitted he may have rushed back too quickly against the Seahawks Oct. 17. Poole said his knee tightened up at halftime of that game, and afterward it was determined he should have a procedure (likely an arthroscopy) to ``clean up'' the knee. According to Poole, who won't play Sunday, doctors told him that by this point he should be feeling like a three on a scale of 1-10.

``And I'd say right now I'm about a seven,'' said Poole.

``I'm not trying to rush back. I'm just trying to get myself healthy so when the time comes for me to return, I'll be at the playing level I want to help the team.'' . . .

The Pats practiced in full pads, signifying a contact practice that featured work on run defense.