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Patriots decline to exercise Smith's option

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Patriots elected not to exercise the option on veteran running back Antowain Smith today. The seven-year veteran is now a free agent.

"In his three seasons with the Patriots, Antowain played a significant role in our team's overall success," said Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. "He is a true professional. On behalf of the entire organization, we wish him continued success in the future."

Smith, 31, was originally drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 1997 NFL draft (23rd overall). After four seasons with the Bills, he signed with the Patriots as a veteran free agent in June of 2001. Since then, he has been the Patriots leading rusher and was a key contributor to both Super Bowl teams in 2001 and 2003. Last season, his 642 yards rushing edged out Kevin Faulk's 638 to lead the team in rushing for his third consecutive season. In seven NFL seasons, Smith has now rushed for 5,713 yards and 47 touchdowns (3.9 avg.) on 1,481 carries.

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