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Almost all settled at safety; Harmon seems ahead in competition for last spot.

Byline: Rich Garven

FOXBORO -- While cornerback, at least the spot opposite Aqib Talib, remains in flux due to injuries, the Patriots have established some stability at safety during training camp.

Devin McCourty is a lock never to leave the field regardless of the situation while Adrian Wilson likely will be used on early downs and as an on-the-line player in the Big Nickel defense with Steve Gregory coming in and playing more of a center-field role in obvious passing situations.

However, the competition for the fourth safety spot remains undecided with sophomore Tavon Wilson and rookie Duron Harmon the top contenders. At the moment, Harmon appears to have the edge.

While he'll admit to having improved this summer, he's quick to point out he's far from a polished product.

"I'm getting there,'' Harmon said after a joint practice against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "I'll just leave it at that. I'm nowhere near close to where I want to be with the comfort level, but I'm getting there. I'm making progress.''

The Patriots drafted Harmon in the third round with the 91st overall pick in April. They took cornerback Logan Ryan, a teammate of Harmon's at Rutgers, eight picks earlier.

Coach Bill Belichick was upbeat about what he has seen from both players thus far.

"Duron has had a good camp, he's done well,'' Belichick said. "He missed some time in the spring (with an injury) but he's smart, he's a very instinctive player, picks things up pretty quickly.

"I'm sure he's worked with Devin a lot back there with communication and adjustments as well as Steve, Adrian, the rest of them. He's done well.

"Logan has played both the inside and outside for us, as well as in the kicking game, as has Harmon. I know those guys spend a lot of time going over things together and all that. They've both done well. Smart kids that pick things up quickly, they look like they have some position flexibility.''

The Patriots typically don't differentiate between their free and strong safeties, requiring their players to have the versatility to play both positions, although it appears they'll be making an exception for Adrian Wilson, a 13th-year pro who just can't defend the pass anymore.

That's fine with Harmon.

"I think I can play either position,'' said Harmon, who did just that at Rutgers, which undoubtedly made him appealing to the Patriots. "I'm just playing where they ask me to play right now and I'm trying to get better at that each and every day. There's stuff I can get better and improve on and that's what I'm going to do.''

Harmon, like Tavon Wilson, has been making his presence felt on multiple special-teams units, which likely will be how both players get the majority of their playing time, barring injuries, during the regular season.

In the meantime, Harmon will continue to grind away this summer. That includes off the field as well as on it as he continues to master the playbook, which is definitely not a light read.

"I'm trying; it's coming,'' he said. "It's more comfortable. But at the end of the day, I know that playbook is big, and I still have a lot more to learn and I've got to take that approach each and every day. I can't ever get comfortable and think I got the playbook, because that's going to be the day when it bites me in the butt.''

Bag policy

A reminder: The NFL's new stadium bag policy will be in effect for Friday's preseason game here against Tampa Bay.

The only bags fans will be allowed to bring into Gillette Stadium are see-through bags (plastic, vinyl or PVC) that do not exceed 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches; one-gallon clear plastic freezer bags (or similar types); and small clutch bags not to exceed 7 inches by 4 inches by 2 inches.

The list of prohibited items now includes seat cushions, backpacks, cinch bags, fanny packs and purses larger than the above-mentioned clutch bag.

For more information, go to and

Extra Points

Linebacker Brandon Spikes was back at practice after missing Tuesday's workout for undisclosed reasons. ... Tight end Zach Sudfeld and receiver Julian Edelman both made quarterback Tim Tebow look good on a pair of completions in a span of three throws. Sudfeld went up high to make a twisting catch on a sailing ball while surrounded by three defenders. Edelman displayed great concentration while extending to make a toe-dragging reception at the very back of the end zone. ... Tebow celebrated his 26th birthday Wednesday. ... The Patriots will hold their final practice -- it's a walkthrough with the Buccaneers, so no pads -- from 2 to 4 p.m. today.

Contact Rich Garven

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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Garven, Rich
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 15, 2013
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