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Cloud officially signs

Late June is normally a quiet time around Foxborough but the Patriots still made some news on Monday by officially signing running back Mike Cloud to a one-year deal.

The former Boston College standout and Kansas City backup was on hand for a tryout during the team's recent mini-camp earlier this month and now will return for training camp July 23.

"Mike couldn't be happier," said Cloud's agent, Jonathan Feinsod. "He's looking forward to the season and continuing his career for years to come."

Cloud, who grew up in nearby Portsmouth, R.I., still faces a major obstacle in his quest to earn a roster spot with New England because of his impending four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He refused to discuss the situation during mini-camp but Feinsod explained that his client took a contaminated supplement and had his appeal denied despite evidence to support his case.

Evidently, the problem arose when he ingested a protein powder that contained Nandrolene, which is a banned substance. Cloud's camp had the powder tested and learned that it was tainted with the steroid. Even though the league agreed with his findings, its was forced to uphold the suspension because of liability issues.

The suspension won't kick in until he survives final cuts. At that time, the Patriots will place him on the reserve/suspended list and he will miss the first four games of the 2003 season. He'll be able to take part fully in training camp and in preseason games but once the regular season begins he'll be forced to the sidelines for a month.

With Cloud's addition, the Patriots backfield figures to be a bit deeper. He'll join incumbent Antowain Smith, Kevin Faulk, J.R. Redmond, Antwoine Womack and rookie free agent Derek Watson. Faulk is slated for third-down and situational use while Redmond tries to resurrect his flailing career. Womack is trying to prove he's healthy after missing his rookie year with a torn ACL and could also see time at fullback. Watson is a long shot to make the team.

Cloud, who spent his first four NFL seasons with the Chiefs, started six of his 56 career games with 121 career carries for 381 yards and four touchdowns. The former second-round pick received little interest as an unrestricted free agent after backing up Pro Bowler Priest Holmes the past two years in Kansas City.

"It's been frustrating, but given my situation I can understand why," Cloud said during mini-camp. "I am here trying to learn the plays and get myself ready. I am just learning the system as quickly as possible so when I am put in a situation I can respond and I am not out there guessing what I have to do so I can let my talent come through."

Head Coach Bill Belichick is away from his office and was not available for comment on the Cloud signing but he did say during mini-camp that the suspension would not be a key factor in the team's decision. "I don't think that is going to hold up the process because we are aware of it and we know what it is," he said. "If we don't want to deal with it, then we wouldn't be at this point right now."

Obviously Belichick was true to his word and Cloud is now a Patriot.

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