Foxborough, Mass. – The Patriots made their final roster cuts late Sunday afternoon to reach the National Football League's 4 p.m. deadline for 53-man rosters. As is always the case on cut-down day across the league, surprises take place and veteran players are often among those casualties.
Among the 12 players released by the Patriots Sunday were veteran defensive backs Terrell Buckley and Je'Rod Cherry. Buckley, a 12-year veteran, was back for a second stint with the Patriots this season and was expected experience and depth. Cherry, who has spent three of his eight NFL seasons with the Patriots, has built a career as a special teams player. The Patriots kept four cornerbacks and four safeties on the final roster, as both veterans who appeared more than likely to make the team ultimately lost out to younger players in what is a stark reality across the league.
"It's very tough," veteran safety Rodney Harrison said. "It's the nature of the beast I guess, but it's still disappointing because you have so many friends in the locker room, people that you practice with 30 or 40 practices, really good people. To see them get cut is hard. This is a business. You can't keep 90 guys. You have to get down to 53. If you play long enough, eventually that tap will come on your shoulder."
The Patriots also announced the release of 10 other players, including wide receivers Michael Jennings, Chas Gessner and Ricky Bryant; cornerback Christian Morton; running backs Kory Chapman and Malaefou Mackenzie; linebackers Justin Kerpeikis and Eric Alexander; defensive lineman Buck Rasumssen and offensive tackle David Pruce.
"It's always a hard day, a hard time," Belichick said. "Then you have the veteran factor, players who have been in your system, played for you, won for you, that sometimes you have to move on from for one reason or another. That's never an easy scenario. Even the guys who aren't veterans – the guys that have been here and worked hard and given you everything they have - you have to make a decision.
"You can't keep everybody. We had 74 players last week; we have to reduce to 53. Not everybody can be here."
The Patriots also placed rookie running back Cedric Cobbs, the teams' fifth-round draft choice, and veteran linebacker Matt Chatham on the physically unable to perform list. Neither player will be eligible to be activated until after the sixth game of the season. Both Cobbs and Chatham were placed on the active/PUP list to open training camp and have yet to practice with the team this season.
The team was required to make 14 roster moves to reach Sunday's deadline. Belichick said during a press conference that some of the players were informed early Sunday morning, while others were notified later in the day, depending on their situation. As is often the case, even the final 53-player roster will be in a state of flux as the season progresses.
"How your team is going to look in one week, and how it might look in two or three or four weeks, could be a lot different based on what happens in the coming weeks and also players who may be available then that aren't available today," Belichick said. "All those things come into play. You're trying to project, not just where your team is today, but where it's going to be in October, where it's going to be in November, and those things all effect the decisions. There is no scientific way to do it. You have to take the information you have, do the best you can with it, and probably adjust it as we go forward. I'm sure whatever we do today, that there will be some adjustments in the roster in coming days or coming weeks. That wouldn't surprise me at all either. It usually goes that way."
Here's a view of the breakdown of the final roster:
Quarterbacks (3): Tom Brady, Rohan Davey, Jim Miller.
The Skinny: No surprises here. The team brought back veteran Miller this week and he began practicing for the first time since offseason shoulder surgery. Davey's preseason play following a big season in NFL Europe has been unremarkable, at best.
Running Backs (3): Corey Dillon, Kevin Faulk, Patrick Pass.
The Skinny: The team will go light with only three running backs to start the season, an indication Faulk's injury status is not serious. With Cobbs out for the first six weeks, depth will have to come from the practice squad.
Wide Receivers (6): P.K. Sam, Troy Brown, Bethel Johnson, Deion Branch, David Patten, David Givens.
The Skinny: The Patriots opted to keep six receivers, but it was the rookie Sam who claimed the final spot over Gessner and Jennings despite an injury-filled preseason. This may be the deepest and most talented group of receivers in years.
Tight Ends (3): Daniel Graham, Benjamin Watson, Christian Fauria.
The Skinny: Easily the most set position on the team. Watson, a first-round pick, has made big strides since a contract dispute held him out early in training camp. All three are expected to make major contributions this season.
Offensive Line (10): Stephen Neal, Joe Andruzzi, Gene Mruczkowski, Bob Hallen, Dan Koppen, Tom Ashworth, Adrian Klemm, Russ Hochstein, Matt Light, Brandon Gorin.
The Skinny: Expected to keep the standard eight players here, the team ultimately elected to keep 10 here at the expense of other positions. Either several players played their way onto the roster, or the depth is a concern.
Cornerbacks (4): Asante Samuel, Ty Law, Randall Gay, Tyrone Poole.
The Skinny: The surprise here is Gay, an undrafted rookie free agent who had a tremendous training camp and made Buckley expendable. Morton is a likely practice squad candidate.
Safeties (4): Dexter Reid, Shawn Mayer, Eugene Wilson, Rodney Harrison.
The Skinny: The season-ending knee injury to rookie Gus Scott opened the door here for Mayer. Both Reid and Mayer showed their value on special teams, making Cherry one of the final cuts.
Linebackers (10): Tully Banta-Cain, Mike Vrabel, Don Davis, Ted Johnson, Larry Izzo, Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinnest, Rosevelt Colvin, Dan Klecko, Roman Phifer.
The Skinny: It was thought the team may keep 11 here, the deepest and most veteran group on the team. Klecko continues to make a smooth transition from lineman, while Colvin looks to have made a successful return from a major hip injury. Izzo, Davis and Banta-Cain will be counted on in special teams.
Defensive Line (7): Vince Wilfork, Marquise Hill, Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, Jarvis Green, Keith Traylor, Ethan Kelley.
The Skinny: Two rookies make it here – Wilfork and Hill – along second-year player Kelley, who spent last season on the practice squad. Season-ending injuries to Rodney Bailey and Dana Stubblefield changed the dynamic of this group.
Specialists (3): Adam Vinatieri, Josh Miller, Lonie Paxton.
The Skinny: In Vinatieri and Miller, the Patriots have one of the best kicking duos in the league. Miller was signed as a free agent during the offseason and has proved during the preseason to be an upgrade over Ken Walter.