Belichick: Sopoaga primed to play Sunday

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Veteran defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga has practiced with the New England Patriots each of the past three days since being acquired in a trade from the Eagles, and coach Bill Belichick said Friday that there is a good chance Sopoaga will play Sunday against the Steelers.

“We have a couple more days to clean up a few things, but if he continues to progress through the week, I don’t think there’s any reason why he shouldn’t be ready to play,” Belichick said.

Belichick made the point that acquiring Sopoaga at this point of the season is different from signing a free-agent, as he’s in “football shape” from having played in every game (39 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps).

“He’s in good condition, his reactions are what you’d expect them to be,” Belichick noted. “He just has to get familiar with our terminology and some of the way we play certain blocks and what his responsibilities are on blitzes and that kind of thing. He’s a smart guy and he obviously has a lot of experience.”

From a big-picture standpoint, Belichick was asked what he remembers about Sopoaga from the 2004 draft. Sopoaga, who played at Hawaii, had visited Gillette Stadium and was a prospect the team had interest in selecting before he went in the fourth round (49ers).

“We talked about taking him, and we were going to take him, but we were a round late,” Belichick said, pointing out that the team had already selected defensive tackle Vince Wilfork in the first round.

“You can never have too many defensive linemen, and that was kind of the conversation. He was right there. We were ready to take him and we said ‘We think we can get him one round later,' we’d already taken a couple guys, and probably waited a little too long on that one.”

Asked if Sopoaga’s career has played out how he projected, Belichick said: “That’s a pretty good fourth-round pick, I’d say. I think if you knew what his career was going to be, he would have gone in the second. He could have gone in the first ahead of some other people that had been drafted in that round, obviously. I’d say he’s had a real good career. For a fourth-round pick that’s done what he’s done, there aren’t too many of them that have done that. I think it’s been pretty good.”