Foxborough, Mass. – It turns out that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick didn't need to wait until Sunday's official deadline to begin reducing the roster to the league-mandated 53-player limit. The Patriots today announced the release of quarterback Kliff Kingsbury, defensive lineman Dwight Johnson, cornerback Earthwind Moreland, offensive lineman Jamil Soriano, linebackers Lawrence Flugence and Grant Steen, tight end Joel Jacobs, defensive back Scott Farley and running back Mike Cloud.
The team also announced it re-signed quarterback Jim Miller and signed free agent running back Kory Chapman, who was released by the Baltimore Ravens.
The Patriots active roster currently stands at 67 players, including nine NFL Europe roster exemptions. The team will have to make 14 additional transactions before Sunday's official 53-player roster deadline at 4 p.m., which will likely include placing players on inactive lists such as the injured reserve or physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Teams can begin signing players for the eight-player practice squad starting at 4 p.m. on Monday following the customary 24-hour waiting period for players to clear waivers.
"We still have a few to go," Belichick said in a conference call Friday. "That will be part of what we're dealing with over the next couple of days."
Cloud's release was somewhat surprising considering the current injury status of Kevin Faulk and rookie Cedric Cobbs, which leaves little depth behind Corey Dillon. Cloud got an extended look in Thursday's loss to Jacksonville in the fourth and final preseason game, rushing for 93 yards on 19 carries. He was entering his second season with the Patriots after rushing for a team-high five touchdowns in 2003. A former second-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1999, Cloud was inactive for 10 games in 2003, including all three playoff games.
"I think it gives him an opportunity by doing it a little bit earlier now, because he's a veteran, that he'll terminate and be free and give him an opportunity to look into some other options, if there are any," Belichick said. "I think he deserves that. He's been a hard-working, tough kid, who's really given us his best. At this point we just don't have a spot for him. That could change. I'm not closing the door on anything here, that could definitely change. In the meantime, in fairness to him, he deserves the opportunity to try and see what the other options are for him."
The re-signing of Miller is an indication of the team's dissatisfaction with the backup play behind Tom Brady. The 10-year veteran spent the entire preseason with the team but was unable to practice as he recovered from offseason shoulder surgery. Miller has been throwing for several weeks, and while it was reported he was not able to pass a team physical prior to his release Tuesday, he practiced with the team today. The Patriots only other option would have been to place him on the PUP list, which would require him to sit out through at least the first six weeks of the regular season.
"I said that I thought that he might be ready to practice by the end of the week - he practiced today," Belichick said. "He wasn't going to play in the game, and that enabled us to play somebody else. I guess would be my explanation."
Kingsbury played sparingly during the preseason, completing 7-of-8 passes for 45 yards and one interception. A sixth-round pick by the Patriots in 2003, he spent all of his rookie season on injured reserve. Belichick said Kingsbury would be given "consideration" for the practice squad, providing he clears waivers.
"At this point, we just felt like there were other people ahead of him," Belichick said. "I respect Kliff, I think he's worked very hard and has a great attitude. At this point, we just can't carry him on the 53-man roster."
Chapman, who was originally signed as a rookie free agent by the Ravens this year, is a product of Jacksonville State.
Published reports saying the Patriots may have an interest in veteran quarterback Doug Flutie should draw the eyes and ears of Patriots Nation. Flutie could very well be a salary cap casualty in San Diego, where the Charges are currently carrying four quarterbacks on the roster. Behind Drew Brees and first-round pick Phillip Rivers are Flutie and second-year player Cleo Lemon, who the Chargers may not be willing to expose to waivers to get on the practice squad. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Flutie is owed a roster bonus "in the neighborhood" of $300,000 this month if he makes the roster. The 41-year-old Flutie, who did not play in the Chargers' preseason finale last night, will count more than $1.9 million against San Diego's salary cap this year according to numbers from the NFL Players Association.
Belichick was asked about adding a quarterback who may be released by another team, but said there are no players who are available at this point there the team is targeting. He also wasn't aware of any trade talks the team is involved in.
"We always evaluate every player that's available, every player that's released, and make some type of determination on where that player fits for us." Belichick said. "It all depends on the player. Procedurally, we do that with everybody. Who are those players going to be? I don't know. I certainly wouldn't try and speculate on it."
There isn't likely to be any injury update on Faulk or wide receiver Troy Brown until the official Week 1 injury reports are released by teams on Tuesday. Belichick said he spoke with Brown Friday morning but didn't have an update on his apparent knee injury, other than to say "he's definitely coming along." Faulk also suffered what is being reported as a knee injury against Carolina, and was not in attendance against Jacksonville because he was tending to a family issue.
"I can't really characterize [Faulk's injury]," Belichick said. "I'd say he's day-to-day. That's probably the best description I can give you. I spoke with him yesterday; he's doing better. We haven't really pushed it because it wasn't in the plans for him to play last night. We'll start to get a little better assessment of where he's at relative for this game. When we need to make a determination for that we'll make one."
Rookie wide receiver P.K. Sam dressed but did not play Thursday night. Sam, who is not eligible for the physically unable to perform list because he practiced during training camp, has not played during the preseason. The Patriots fifth-round draft choice could be a candidate for the injured reserve if he isn't ready to begin the regular season. Belichick said Cobbs, who is still listed on the PUP and did not dress Thursday, is closer to returning.
Inside The Numbers
Statistically speaking, at least, there were several areas of interest stemming from last night's game. Cloud totaled 93 yards against the Jaguars to led the team in rushing during the preseason, finishing with 194 yards on 49 carries. That mark was the highest preseason rushing total by a Patriot in six years, since Sedrick Shaw gained 203 yards on 65 carries in five preseason games during the 1998 preseason. Rookie tight end Benjamin Watson led the team in receiving, finishing with 10 receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown despite playing in only three of the four preseason contests. Defensively, third-year linebacker Justin Kurpeikis had a game-high 11 tackles against Jacksonville and led the Patriots with 21 total stops during the preseason.