FOXBORO -- The fourth preseason game is typically cast aside as little more than a tune-up for the reserves of the NFL. Starters usually participate very little, if at all, rendering it in the eyes of fans as the most meaningless of the meaningless games played each summer.

But there are still cuts to be made. The Patriots are like every other NFL club in that they must soon shrink their roster from 75 players to 53, and their coach Bill Belichick said this week that there was still time for certain individuals to compete for jobs.

That meaningless fourth preseason game, as it turns out, could mean a great deal to a handful of Patriots.

"I think we still have a lot of decisions to make," Belichick said. "There are a lot of decisions that we still need to make. What will affect those decisions, I don’t know – a practice, a game, other circumstances that right now maybe aren’t even in play. Maybe something will happen over the next few days that right now we’re not taking into consideration, but we will have to.

"And again, 53-man spots are one thing, practice squad spots are another thing. You’re talking about going from 75 to 53 plus eight. Maybe there is an injured player in there somewhere. It’s really not that many."

Here are a few other notes from Belichick's press conferences this week . . .

On the leadership shown by Patriots safety Devin McCourty, who saw time at corner in preseason game No. 2 against the Saints but has since been shifted back to his role at safety: "I think the older players look up to him," Belichick said. "I think everybody looks up to him. Devin, like [Jerod] Mayo, which is unusual, was a captain in his second year on the team. You usually don’t see that. It certainly takes a pretty special person to do that, earn that kind of respect from his teammates. So, I think Devin’s communication, his position flexibility, his work ethic, his toughness, his dependability are all huge positives that are appreciated by everybody in the organization – players, coaches, veteran players, rookie players , all the people in the organization that work with him – training staff, equipment staff – everybody. He’s a huge plus."


On assistant to the Patriots coaching staff and former Cleveland general manager Mike Lombardi, who has helped Belichick in a variety of roles, including providing the front office with information on former Browns like running back Dion Lewis and linebacker Eric Martin: "Mike has been a big help to me personally and definitely some of the experience that he has, some of the guys that he’s familiar with . . . are good examples of guys that there’s very little film on from last year. You can’t see them, but he was familiar with those guys and [Brian] Tyms from the year before. When you’ve been with a player – I’ve done that before – you change organizations, you’re with a player, you know the guy, regardless of what anybody else knows that wasn’t on that team, and sometimes those players can have a fit or not have a fit depending on what the new team was.

"When I came here from Cleveland after the 1995 season, guys like [Pio] Sagapolutele, Tom Tupa, [Chad] Eaton was another guy, that if you have a knowledge of those players, then sometimes it kind of helps you identify somebody that might fit if you have a need there . . . When I left the Giants and went to Cleveland, it was kind of [like] the situation with [Matt] Stover. Stover didn’t play at all for us. [Matt] Bahr was the kicker with the Giants in 1990. [Stover] went on to have a pretty good career with the Browns and the Ravens – whatever it was – 20 some years. There are guys like that sometimes you don’t really . . . If you’re with a guy, you know a lot more about him than the other teams that don’t have that opportunity. I’ve asked Mike to do some things on an individual [basis] – projects or things that I’ve asked him to do – and he’s done a great job of that for me."