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Punter Sauerbrun wins grievance against Pats

BOSTON (April 18, 2007) -- Punter Todd Sauerbrun won his grievance against the New England Patriots and is now a free agent.

The 13-year veteran is expected to join the Denver Broncos. He agreed to a one-year deal with them earlier this month, but the Patriots matched it through a clause in his contract with New England. Sauerbrun had signed with the Patriots last December and punted in the playoffs.

Sauerbrun, with the help of the NFL Players Association, contended that the clause was inappropriate because it was not written separately from the contract itself, a requirement for right-to-match deals. A special master in Boston ruled that the Patriots erred, thus freeing Sauerbrun.

His deal with Denver was worth more than the $1.395 million he was scheduled to make with the Broncos last year. Sauerbrun started the 2006 season with Denver, but lost his job while serving a four-game suspension for using the banned dietary supplement ephedra.

Sauerbrun has a career punting average of 44 yards, with a net average of 36. He made the Pro Bowl three straight times, between 2001 and 2003, when he was with the Carolina Panthers.

Sauerbrun said he knowingly took an over-the-counter weight loss product last summer that he strongly suspected contained ephedra, which the NFL banned after the death of Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Korey Stringer during training camp in 2001. Players are randomly tested and can be suspended after the first violation.

That drew the ire of Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who said the punter is the only player on the team who can be fat as far as he was concerned.

Sauerbrun, who packs 215 pounds on his beefy 5-foot-10 frame and who was fined by the Panthers for eating too much, said at the time he worries about his weight all the time.

He also said he especially regretted letting down Shanahan, who gave him a fresh start after a trouble-filled stint in Carolina, and that he hoped he could make it up to him someday. He might get that chance soon.

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