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CARROLL EXPECTS BLEDSOE'S VOLATILE SIDE TO HYDE

Pete Carroll spoke up strongly for his quarterback this week, saying that underneath his laid-back personality Drew Bledsoe is as tough a competitor as anyone in professional football.

But Carroll also said he expects to see the cooler, more calculating side of Bledsoe's persona dominate the emotional one Sunday when the New England Patriots face the New York Jets at the Meadowlands.

During his mid-week news conference, Carroll recalled that last month Bledsoe appeared to have things under control in the days leading to the Pats' initial matchup with the Bill Parcells-coached Jets.

Then shortly after the opening kickoff, the cerebral Dr. Jekyll of the quarterback was shoved aside by the monstrous Mr. Hyde, which nearly wound up costing the Pats a victory.

"It's interesting because we were preparing so that wouldn't happen and it just kind of emerged at game time," said Carroll, who shortly after the 27-24 overtime triumph described Bledsoe as having played with the smash-mouth mentality of a linebacker.

Frustrated by the Jets' defensive schemes that took away his ability to go long, Bledsoe completed 16 of his 34 passes for 162 yards in a game in which he was handed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during a shoving match with linebacker Victor Green.

"I was a little too hyped up," Bledsoe said. "I've always prided myself on being able to stay on a pretty even keel, so that's not something that is going to be a concern for me again in the foreseeable future."

Bledsoe didn't deny that part of the reason he went out of control was because Parcells, who had spent most of the previous four years in his face, was patrolling the other sideline as coach of the Jets.

"We wanted to go out and I wanted to go out and win by a bunch of points," Bledsoe said. "I was trying to make all the plays in the world. It was something that happened and it won't happen again."

Because the Jets are likely to be guarding against big plays and dropping seven or eight defensive players into pass coverage on every snap, Bledsoe said he and the Pats will remain patient.

"We have to realize when are the times to take shots and when are the times to be consistent and run the ball or take the 6- to 12-yard (passing) gain," he said. "We have a lot of weapons, but we're not going to try and force anything down the field."

Maybe not, but the fact that the Pats' fastest wide receiver, Terry Glenn, has returned to full-time action after spending most of the first month and a half on the sidelines with a sprained ankle is a plus.

"Even when he's not making big plays, he has an impact because he attracts attention," Bledsoe said. "Teams know that they have to be aware of Terry or he will kill them. So even if he's not making big plays, he opens up things for other people."

Bledsoe, who completed 14 of 27 passes for 181 yards in a 33-6 victory over Buffalo last weekend that improved the Pats' record to 5-1, said his perception and that of his teammates toward the Jets was changed in their initial meeting.

"We know for sure now that the Jets (4-3) are a good team," he said. "When we came into the first game we felt like the Jets were a team on the way up. Now they've proven that they're good."

Harper moving up on Redskins' depth chart

ASHBURN, Va. -- Michael Westbrook is hurt. Again. He always seems to be hurt. That's why the Washington Redskins signed Alvin Harper.

This week, the Redskins need their million dollar investment in the seven-year veteran to start paying off. With Westbrook out at least two weeks after spraining his left knee in Monday night's victory over Dallas, Harper moves up to third-down receiver when the Redskins visit Tennessee on Sunday.

"I'm just waiting for my opportunity," Harper said.

Over the last two seasons, Westbrook's injuries were compounded when Leslie Shepherd missed six games and Henry Ellard sat out one.

"You're sitting there and you're pulling your hair out trying to figure out what you're going to do," receivers coach Terry Robiskie said. "You're scrambling, trying to find somebody. You're looking all over the waiver wire. There is some comfort this year."

That comfort is Harper, who ended an unhappy stay in Tampa Bay by signing a three-year, $3.5 million contract that will net him $1 million this year.

Around the league

San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield was arrested Sunday for investigation of drunken driving. The California Highway Patrol took Stubblefield, 26, into custody just after 11 p.m. Sunday on Highway 101 in Redwood City.

Minnesota Vikings running backs coach Carl Hargrave has pleaded not guilty to drunken driving charges involving a two-car accident July 3 in Eden Prairie. Charges against Hargrave also include refusing a blood-alcohol test, obstructing the legal process, disorderly conduct and careless driving.

The Carolina Panthers re-signed Shane Matthews, giving them another quarterback while Steve Beuerlein recovers from a knee injury. Matthews was originally signed by Carolina before the start of the season but was released on Sept. 16. The Panthers also waived fullback Kantroy Barber.

New Orleans Saints rookie guard Chris Naeole underwent surgery for a left knee injury he suffered in training camp, sidelining the first-round pick for the rest of the season. Naeole, taken 10th overall by the Saints out of the University of Colorado, tore the medial collateral ligament in his left knee on July 21.

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