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Phifer released

Roman Phifer said in the week leading up to Super Bowl XXXIX that he would evaluate his football playing future after that game. It appears that future, at least for now, won't involve the New England Patriots.

The Patriots released the 14-year veteran on Monday, saving about $1.5 million against the 2005 salary cap. Phifer carried a $2 million cap number into the new league year, which begins March 2, and was owed a $200,000 roster bonus if he remained on the team.

Phifer, who will turn 37 on March 5, spent four seasons and started 46 regular season games with New England after signing as a free agent during 2001 training camp. He was part of three Super Bowl championship teams.

Three days before Super Bowl XXXIX, Phifer was asked about his playing future. "I just take it one year at a time at this point and I'll probably evaluate that after this game.

"I still have one more game to play, which is the most important. It could be my last game, but I don't want to think of anything negative right now. I'm having a good time and preparing to play in a big game. I'm just looking forward to that."

Phifer's playing time dwindled last season when a healthy Ted Johnson took over as the starting inside linebacker beside Tedy Bruschi. Phifer played in 13 games in 2004 with one start after starting 15, 14 and 16 games in the three previous seasons, respectively. He played in all three playoff games and all nine postseason games during the team's three championship runs.

Phifer had never played in the postseason in 10 years with the Rams and Jets before joining New England and he was a major contributor on the 2001 championship team, finishing with 92 tackles, two sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

He missed two games with a leg injury in 2002, but still finished with 109 tackles, half a sack, two forced fumbles and a recovery before posting 130 tackles in 16 games in helping New England to a world championship in 2003, when he also added two more forced fumbles. Last season, Phifer had 51 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.

In 211 career games and 177 starts, Phifer had 1,297 tackles, 29 sacks, 11 interceptions, 18 forced fumbles and 8 fumble recoveries.

Phifer's agent, Marvin Demoff, was in a meeting an unavailable when contacted by Patriots Football Weekly, so it is not known if the veteran linebacker who played both inside and outside during his Patriots tenure, might re-sign with the club at a reduced rate, although that would seem unlikely given that the team will already carry about $500,000 in dead money on his old contract. If he were signed to a one-year veteran minimum qualifying offer, that would give him a cap number of about $1 million, which would still offer the team about $1 million in savings from his original cap number.

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