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Six players cut in roster reduction

NFL rules required all the teams to reduce their rosters to 75 players today. The Patriots were no exception.

All 32 NFL teams are required to whittle their rosters down to 75 players by 4 p.m. ET today, including the Patriots. So, the team announced six cuts this morning. Hank Poteat, Freddie Roach, Rich Musinski, Keron Henry, Brian Barthelmes and Nick Steitz are no longer members of the Patriots. Coach Bill Belichick seemed a bit regretful about the fact that cuts had to be made, and addressed the difficulties for players trying to make the team.

"We know things can change around here in a hurry – can change on anything in a hurry," said Belichick. "So I think the most important thing is that the players train to do the jobs that maybe are their primary jobs, but also we have to create depth on your team internally, where players can perform different roles. That's part of your team and it's part of your overall depth."

Cornerback Hank Poteat was with the team during the last two seasons after being signed in January of 2005. He came in to help the Patriots secondary, which suffered a rash of injuries before the team won Super Bowl XXXIX. He collected two solo tackles and batted down a Ben Roethlisberger pass intended for Hines Ward in the AFC championship that year.

"Hank's a great kid. He's a good player to coach," said Belichick this morning. "He works hard. He made some big plays for us, played in some big games. You know, I have no issues at all with Hank. He worked hard in the offseason program. We just felt like there were some players ahead of him today, and that's why we did that. I have total respect for Hank, his work ethic, his toughness, his competitiveness. It was a tough one this morning."

Poteat was released on Aug. 30 of 2005, but ultimately re-signed to play in 10 games last season, recording a career-high 24 tackles including his first career sack.

Inside linebacker Freddie Roach signed with the Patriots as an undrafted fee agent last May. He recorded two special teams tackles in the first preseason game at Atlanta but didn't play in the two following games. Since he's been out of practice for an undisclosed reason, Junior Seau has been added to the list of inside linebackers and Mike Vrabel has moved from outside linebacker to inside.

"I think there were players ahead of him at his position," Belichick said. "Unfortunately he hasn't been able to participate in everything the last couple weeks, practices and games. I don't look at it so much as a case of maybe he's fallen behind as just other people get more of an opportunity to move ahead, which a lot of them have done.

As a senior in 2005, Roach started every game for Alabama, playing in 50 consecutive games during his tenure. He finished his college career ranked 10th on Alabama's all-time tackle list with 272 career stops.

Receiver Rich Musinski was signed by the Patriots in July of 2005 and released last August. before being re-signed in January. He had three catches for 23 yards in the preseason, but didn't play in Saturday's game against the Redskins.

Musinski attended the College of William and Mary, where he set school records in every major receiving category, including total receptions (224), receiving yards (4,168) and receiving touchdowns (31). Along with Jerry Rice and Jacquay Nunnally, Musinski is one of just three Division I-AA to record more than 4,000 receiving yards.

He played in all 10 of the Berlin Thunder's games in the 2006 NFL Europe season along side Keron Henry and totaled 23 receptions for 277 yards and four touchdowns.

Receiver Keron Henry was originally signed by the New Orleans Saints as a rookie free agent out of the University of Connecticut in 2005. Henry was released by the Saints prior to the start of the regular season and re-signed to the team's practice squad for the first three weeks of the season. He signed with the San Diego Chargers immediately after the 2005 season and was allocated to NFL Europe. As a receiver for the Berlin Thunder, Henry caught 14 passes for 158 yards. The Chargers waived Henry on June 1, 2006. Henry signed as a free agent with the Patriots last July.

While at Connecticut, Henry transitioned from quarterback to wide receiver and finished his career ranked ninth in school annals with 1,615 yards receiving. He totaled 102 receptions, including a streak of at least one reception in 23 consecutive games.

Center Brian Barthelmes signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in May. He was a four-year letterman at Virginia where he was very versatile. He played in 47 games and started in 38. He had 27 starts at left guard, 10 starts at center, and 1 start at right guard while at Virginia. In 2005, Barthelmes successfully made the move to center after starting in every 2004 game at left guard. Also in 2004, Barthelmes contributed to the most improved offense in the ACC.

Offensive guard Nick Steitz was originally signed by the Saints as an undrafted rookie free agent in May of 2005. He played left guard in all 10 games for the Rhein Fire during the 2006 NFL Europe season, with seven starts. He contributed to Rhein's offense, which had the second-most total yards in the NFLEL (2,035) and the second-highest average in yards-per game (189.7).

Steitz was a three-year starter and two-time All-PAC 10 honoree for Oregon while in college. Like Barthelmes, Steitz played three different positions on the offensive line during college. As a senior in 2004, Steitz started 11 games for the Ducks and didn't miss an offensive snap in seven of those games. As a junior, Stietz was one of three veteran offensive linemen that were looked upon to carry the load when injuries riddled the unit. He also started 12 of 13 games as a sophomore.

Notes:The Patriots players all had their finest suits hanging in their lockers before practice in preparation for the team's annual Kickoff Gala at Gillette Stadium tonight, at which Jarvis Green will receive the 2006 Ron Burton Award for community service for his post-Katrina work in and around New Orleans. … Patrick Pass was seen loading music onto his Ipod in the locker room today. At the same time, Corey Bramlet was working on a Sudoku puzzle, while Jonathan Sullivan and Asante Samuel played Dominos. … Corey Dillon trotted into the locker room sporting an Oakland A's hat. … Chad Brown was in the locker room today as well. … Rookie Patrick Cobbs and Kevin Faulk sat together at Cobbs' locker jawing and laughing while the press milled around. The moment Faulk left, however, Heath Evans walked over and gave Cobbs a little rookie treatment, flipping his hat off his head and onto the ground before chuckling and walking away. … Today's practice was shorts, helmets and shoulder pads only and was held inside at the Dana Farber Field House. Quarterback Tom Brady and running back Laurence Maroney were both absent from the first part of practice for the second day in a row. Also absent were Chad Jackson, Guss Scott, Tebucky Jones, Patrick Pass, Tedy Bruschi, Reche Caldwell,Dan Klecko and Chad Brown. … Willie Andrews, Corey Mays and David Thomas were all wearing red non-contact jerseys for the second day in a row.

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