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Patriots release Walter

The Patriots released punter Ken Walter on Tuesday. The team made no further announcement regarding a replacement for the struggling punter.

After watching Ken Walter put his defense in precarious positions late in the game in consecutive weeks, Patriots coach Bill Belichick released the punter on Tuesday afternoon. No announcement was made regarding a potential replacement.

Walter's release comes as no surprise given the veteran's struggles this season. He ranks last in the NFL in gross average (37.9) while his net average of 33.5 is good for just 25th. He also was inconsistent last season after a strong campaign in 2001 when he replaced veteran Lee Johnson in Week Six.

Walter has never been considered to have a big leg, but his problems this season reached new heights. The past two weeks saw poor punts late in games put the Patriots in serious jeopardy. Two weeks ago in Houston, Walter's 31-yard punt out of his own end zone in overtime gave the Texans possession at the Patriots 35. Last week, he shanked an 18-yarder while New England was nursing a four-point lead, allowing Indy to travel just 48 yards for a potential game-winning touchdown in the waning seconds.

Fortunately for the Patriots, the defense bailed Walter out each time. In Houston, Willie McGinest stopped Domanick Davis for a 5-yard loss and eventually forced the Texans to punt. Against the Colts, it was a courageous goal-line stand, capped by McGinest's stop of Edgerrin James on fourth-and-goal from the 1, that preserved victory.

Belichick has been unhappy about his punting situation for several weeks. During the bye week early last month he had several prospective candidates in for tryouts but was apparently unimpressed and stuck with Walter. The fact that Walter also holds for kicker Adam Vinatieri was also likely taken into consideration, but the events of the past two games evidently forced the coach to make the move.

Among those reported to have auditioned in the past weeks been former Ohio State punter Brent Bartholomew, Steve Cheek of Humboldt State, Craig Jarrett and Filip Filipovic.

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