He arrived from the Raiders in time for the Week 1 season opener against Buffalo, but wideout Doug Gabriel was inactive for that game while soaking up the Patriots playbook. He rotated into the following two games, recording his first catch as a Patriot in fourth quarter of the Sept. 25 loss to the Broncos. Gabriel caught six passes for 65 yards during that fourth quarter, and there was some curiosity from the New England media about why he didn't enter the Denver game before the half. But Gabriel went on to start in five of the next six consecutive games. He recorded 25 catches for 344 yards and three touchdowns for the Patriots this season.
"I appreciate how hard [Gabriel] worked and what he tried to do here," said coach Bill Belichick in his Wednesday press conference. "Unfortunately, the way the whole thing came down, it just didn't work out. I don't know if that's anybody's fault, that's just the way it was. … He did some things for us. I just felt like in the long run here, where we're at this point in time, I thought it was the best thing for the football team."
Disaster struck for Gabriel in the Patriots 17-14 loss to the Jets back in Week 10. He recorded one of his five starts as a Patriot in that game, but left the field after fumbling the football on a sideline catch-and-run in the second quarter. The fumble was recovered by safety Kerry Rhodes, and the Jets turned it into a 16-play, 81-yard touchdown drive.
His contributions to the team fell off severely in the following weeks. Gabriel remained active for the next two games, but did not catch another pass until three games later when he grabbed a single 12-yarder against the Lions. He didn't contribute in last week's loss to the Dolphins.
Coach Belichick said that issues with Gabriel were strictly of an on-field nature, and admitted that some receivers simply aren't a good fit for the Patriots system.
"I wish [Gabriel] the best of luck. I really do," said quarterback Tom Brady in his Wednesday press conference. "I think he's a really good person. I wish him the best of luck. I think this team is moving in a certain direction and obviously coach didn't feel he was a part of that, just like most guys that coach lets go... but as a player, I'm always supportive of my teammates. I'm supportive of the guys that we have here that are going to help us work hard, show up every week and try to compete."
Gabriel flies, Kight floats
One guy who's trying to compete is wide receiver Kelvin Kight.
On Saturday, Kight was bumped up from the practice squad where he's been ever since demonstrating good hands at training camp last summer. He subbed in during last weekend's loss to Miami, but didn't catch any passes.
Kight wore a black jersey in practice during the week following the Vikings game, which unofficially announced him as the Practice Player of the Week heading into that game.
He was originally signed by St. Louis as an undrafted free agent prior to the 2004 season, and also spent time with Jacksonville, Minnesota and Green Bay – where he played in his only NFL game – before joining the Patriots this offseason.
Kight's addition to the active roster means that 80 percent of the Pats receiving corps attended the University of Florida. Jabar Gaffney, Reche Caldwell and Chad Jackson all played at Florida, as did Kight. Troy Brown, the only other receiver on the roster, attended Marshall.