The Patriots announced five transactions late Tuesday afternoon to reach the 65-man NFL roster limit by the 4 p.m. deadline. The team released linebacker O.J. Brigance, in addition to the release earlier in the day of wide receiver Jimmy Farris and long snapper Ryan Benjamin.
The team also placed two players on reserve lists. Rookie running back Antwoine Womack was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list with a knee injury. Safety Rob Kelly was placed on the injured reserve list with a shoulder injury.
The five transactions leave the Patriots with 68 players on the active roster, although three of them (C Patrick Downey, DE Radell Lockhart and LB Maugaula Tuitele) have NFL Europe exemptions. The three do not count towards the team's roster limit until the final 53-man limit on Sept. 1.
Farris, an undrafted rookie out of Montana who spent time on the San Francisco 49ers practice squad in 2001, originally signed with the Patriots in Jan. 2002. While he was on the roster, Farris was listed among the inactives for each of the Patriots three playoff games. He had been competing in training camp for the fifth wide receiver spot with veteran Freddie "Boom Boom" Coleman and rookie David Givens among others. In three preseason games, Farris had caught four passes for 35 yards.
Benjamin is a long snapper out of South Florida who spent the last two training camps with New England and has also spent time in the Tampa and Chicago organizations. In camp as a backup to veteran long snapper Lonie Paxton, Benjamin saw little significant playing time in the preseason.
Brigance, a six-year NFL veteran had been signed earlier in training camp. He has been primarily a special teams player in his career, a role that with players such as Je'Rod Cherry and Larry Izzo isn't necessarily a weak point on the Patriots roster.
Kelly, originally drafted by the Saints in the second round out of Ohio State in 1997, signed with the Patriots in March of 2002 after being out of football last season. Early on in training camp he missed action with a leg injury but later in camp was out of action with his arm in a sling. With the addition of Victor Green at the safety position and the fact that Kelly never really stepped onto the field, he never realistically worked his way into the mix at that position.
Womack injured his knee twice during his senior year at Virginia. He was drafted in the seventh round of this year by the Patriots, but there were few expectations that he would see the field in the NFL before the 2003 season.
Following this weekend's preseason action, the final round of cuts must be made on or by Sunday, Sept. 1 as the team must get down to the season roster limit of 53 players. Thursday's preseason finale in Washington is the last chance players have to earn their way onto the roster, or solidify their chances of getting their walking papers.