FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison was back on the field with his usual flair, and coach Bill Belichick was glad to see him.
``I think his energy and enthusiasm is good,'' Belichick said in a conference call with reporters Saturday, the day after the Patriots lost 13-10 in their preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
``That's the way it is. He's good for our team, and he's not only an outstanding player but an inspirational one.''
Harrison, entering his 14th season, missed last year's playoffs after injuring his right knee in the final regular-season game. The year before that he played only three games before knee surgery ended his season.
Harrison played just the first three defensive series Friday, making one tackle and combining for another.
With cornerback Asante Samuel holding out of camp, Harrison's leadership and skills are critical to the Patriots defense, which faltered late in January's 38-34 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship.
``Rodney's a good player,'' Belichick said. ``He's a versatile player and it's good to have him out there. It's good to have all the healthy players out there. You hope to have as many of them as you can. In this game it's probably unrealistic. It's realistic to hope and think, but it's not too long that you have every single guy.''
Belichick felt the Buccaneers' offense provided the Patriots' defense with a solid test.
``They do a good job. They're a very good fundamental offensive football team and a good running team,'' he said. ``It was a great learning experience for our football team, especially on the defensive side of the ball.''
The Patriots' front seven, bolstered by the offseason addition of linebacker Adalius Thomas, used a number of different combinations in allowing Tampa Bay to rush for 169 yards. Richard Seymour, one of the team's top defensive lineman, still has not practiced, and defensive end Ty Warren saw limited action.
Quarterback Tom Brady started and was in for 13 plays, while Randy Moss, obtained in a draft day trade with Oakland, sat out as expected with a sore hamstring that's slowed the receiver during training camp. Running back Laurence Maroney and receiver Dante' Stallworth also sat out.
``We played a lot of people and I think that's the big thing right now to get them comfortable with their techniques and their assignments,'' the coach said.
New England hosts Tennessee on Friday night.

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