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Former Patriots DT Pio Sagapolutele dies at the age of 39

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Patriots are saddened to learn of the death of former Patriots defensive lineman Pio Sagapolutele, who died over the weekend at the age of 39.

"I am very sad to hear the news about Pio," said Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. "When we drafted him as part of our first draft class in Cleveland, we saw a tough, hard-working, dependable player and that is exactly what Pio brought to his teams on a daily and yearly basis. He was a quiet leader and a significant contributor to the record-setting '94 Browns defense in 1994 and then again with the Patriots '96 AFC Championship season. My prayers are with Yvonne and the entire Sagapolutele family."

Sagapolutele played one season with the Patriots after signing as an unrestricted free agent in 1996. The 6-foot-6-inch, 297-pound defensive tackle started 10 of 15 regular season games and all three playoff games for the Patriots that year, including Super Bowl XXXI against the Green Bay Packers. He finished the regular season with 28 total tackles. His three sacks ranked fourth on the team that year and was second only to Willie McGinest's 9.5 sacks among defensive lineman.

Sagapolutele was originally drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the fourth round of the 1991 NFL Draft (85th overall) out of San Diego State. He played five seasons with the Browns, starting 11 of the 63 games he participated in. He finished his career with the New Orleans Saints in 1997.

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