The New England Patriots made three roster moves Tuesday in order reach the NFL's 4 p.m. deadline for 65-player roster limits. The Patriots released quarterback Jim Miller and offensive tackle Tim Provost, and placed defensive lineman Dana Stubblefield on the reserve/injured list with an ankle injury. Stubblefield will miss the entire 2004 season.
Miller was signed as a free agent by the Patriots on July 19 with the expectation that he wouldn't be fully ready to contribute until September as he recovered from offseason shoulder surgery. Miller had begun throwing in recent weeks, and was lauded by head coach Bill Belichick for his work ethic and value to the team although he had yet to officially practice or play in a preseason game. It was thought Miller, entering his 10th NFL season, would bring a veteran quarterback presence to the team.
As it currently stands, unless Miller is brought back at a later date or another quarterback is signed, the Patriots will enter the season with reserves Rohan Davey and Kliff Kingsbury behind starter Tom Brady.
The loss of Stubblefield for the season ends a brief cameo by the 11-year veteran with the Patriots. Stubblefield was signed Aug. 5 in an effort to add depth along the defensive line, but appeared in only six practices and the preseason opener against Philadelphia. He had not practiced with the team since.
The Patriots announced the release of Provost earlier in the day. Provost was in his second season after spending the entire 2003 season on the Patriots practice squad.
The roster moves bring the players down to the 65-player limit, excluding the nine NFL Europe roster exemptions the team currently holds. The final reduction to the 53-man roster limit must be made by Sept. 5, just four days before the Patriots open the regular season against the Indianapolis Colts. The official waiver wire is announced Monday at noon, giving teams until noon the following day to set their eight-player practice squads.
The status of wide receiver Troy Brown remains remarkably unclear for Thursday's contest against Jacksonville. Brown suffered a leg injury on a punt return during the first quarter of Saturday's game against Carolina and did not return. One day after saying he didn't know the extent of the injury but wasn't worried about Brown missing substantial time, Belichick remained vague regarding the injury.
"I feel good about Troy," Belichick said. "I feel good about him. Lets leave it at that. I can't estimate what anybody's injury length is going to be. It will be day-by-day. That's what it is."
It's not known whether Brown has practiced this week or if he will play Thursday. He spoke briefly with reporters in the locker room Tuesday for the first time this week, saying "I'm day-to-day, man. I'm doing everything I can to get better. "I have no idea [if I'll play]. It's up to the coach. I'm not a doctor."
With Brady expected to see limited action in Thursday's preseason finale, Belichick offered up that No. 2 quarterback Davey will see extensive action against Jacksonville.
"In Davey's case, that's definitely someone we want to see a lot of," Belichick said. "He is going to get a lot of playing time. I can tell you that right now."
Davey did not play against Carolina for the first time this preseason. The team instead took a look at third quarterback Kingsbury, who played the fourth quarter and completed 4-of-5 passes for 40 yards and an interception. Davey's preseason performance has been less than stellar, as the third-year quarterback has completed 18-of-39 passes for 156 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in action against Philadelphia and Cincinnati.
When asked to make a comparison to veteran linebacker Roman Phifer, Belichick summoned the name of long-time former Cleveland linebacker Clay Matthews. "I think both guys are pretty athletic, both guys are real smart, they train well and are conditioned year round." … Belichick was vague on the topic of playing time for Thursday's game, saying it will vary from position to position. "I feel like some players need more playing time than others in this game, and we'll try to distribute that accordingly and evaluate what we see. You have guys in different scenarios, and I don't think we can just sit there and say this is what it is for everybody because it's not all the same." … Belichick said the team is comfortable using rookie first-round draft pick Vince Wilfork at defensive end in their 3-4 scheme, as they did briefly against Carolina, because of his similar experience as a 4-3 tackle in college.