The Patriots took the field for practice Monday afternoon minus one of the staples of their lineup in recent seasons: Otis Smith.
The veteran cornerback was released earlier in the day, bringing an end to his three-year stay in New England. Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy, the two members of the secondary who spent the most time playing with him, refused to comment on the move, but many other teammates took the time to recognize Smith's contributions to the team.
"Of course there's disappointment because he was close to a lot of guys," safety Rodney Harrison said. "He's a good football player and he has been for a very long time. Someone like that you can't help but feel badly for because he worked so hard to get back on the field. I know Otis and he's a very strong individual and I know he'll bounce back from this."
Harrison, who himself was released after a very successful career in San Diego, could relate to Smith's situation after nine years of service for the Chargers. While admitting he hadn't spoken with his now former teammate, Harrison believes the 37-year-old has something left in the tank.
"He still has years left in him. He's a very talented guy and a very underrated football player," Harrison said. "He definitely wants to play and it's disappointing to see him go, but they make the decisions and I have nothing to do with that. It's the NFL – not for long – and you have to take advantage of every opportunity because before you look up you'll be out of the league.
"You have to come out here and make plays and be aware because any day the grim reaper is coming for us and it's going to happen. If you play long enough eventually someone will be tapping on your shoulder."
Another newcomer, cornerback Tyrone Poole, also expressed sympathy. "Otis worked as hard as anyone," he said. "But this is a business and you're in one minute and out the next. You can find yourself drafted one year and the next year they're looking for someone to replace you. It's a revolving door."
Guard Joe Andruzzi, who's dealt with more than his share of adversity during his four years in New England, hoped to be able to stick around as long as Smith.
"Otis is a great guy, a great family guy and he was a great teammate," Andruzzi added. "I didn't get a chance to speak with him, but he was here the whole offseason. You never know when it's your time. I hope I play as long as he has."
There were a couple of other missing pieces when the Patriots took the field. Damien Woody and David Givens were not in pads and spent the workout riding exercise bikes and working on conditioning. Woody left the Washington game early with an injury but it was unknown whether Givens had any problems. … Rookie wideout Bethel Johnson came up hobbling after running a fly pattern down the sideline. He ran stride-for-stride with fellow rookie Asante Samuel and was unable to grab Tom Brady's pass. He was favoring his left leg after the play but joined his teammates for some conditioning runs at the end of practice and appeared fine. … Poole and Harrison spent some time working individually on conditioning during practice. Harrison ran several sprints across the field while Poole ventured to the bikes. Both reported the work was more preventative medicine than recovering from any injuries. … Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis stopped a passing drill early in practice when several balls wound up on the ground. The drill, which is run daily, has each of the four quarterbacks plus a member of the staff simultaneously throwing passes to five receivers. Normally, all of the passes are caught and the reps go relatively smoothly. Monday saw several passes off target and some others dropped. Weis stopped the drill and spoke with the players momentarily and the performance improved dramatically shortly after.