Patriots rookie Malcom Mitchell awaits Monday night stage

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Things just keep getting better for rookie Malcolm Mitchell.

The rookie receiver the past two games has suddenly become an important part of the New England offense. Now comes a big Monday night stage.

''I know (there's) a lot of excitement around it,'' Mitchell said Thursday as the Patriots prepared for their home game against the Baltimore Ravens in a matchup of AFC division leaders. ''It's the only game on Monday night so I'm looking forward to it.''

Tom Brady clearly has developed trust with the young player, who set Georgia's receptions record in college with 174. Mitchell was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round.

After accumulating just seven catches in the first nine games, Mitchell has 13 catches and three touchdowns in the past two weeks. His progression is now even more important with tight end Rob Gronkowski gone for the rest of the season with a back injury, Danny Amendola gone for the regular season with a high ankle sprain, and Martellus Bennett banged up, causing him to be used mostly as a blocker last week.

''I feel blessed to have an opportunity to be part of this organization, from the time they drafted me to now,'' he said.

Asked if he feels added pressure in light of the injuries to teammates, Mitchell said: ''I just do what they tell me. That's how I like to keep it, keep it that simple.''

He says being around veterans has been a big help.

''It just takes time to get used to any organization that you're new in,'' he said. ''I'm still learning.''

NOTES: Griff Whalen, the receiver/returner signed as a free agent with Amendola hurt, reported for his first workout. ''We haven't seen much of anything from him. We'll see how it goes,'' said coach Bill Belichick. ''We'll see how he works into our receiver situation.'' Whelan, released by San Diego Nov. 22, caught two passes for 22 yards and returned four kicks for 56 in eight games for the Chargers this season.

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