The New England Patriots made several roster moves today, including the somewhat surprising release of veteran offensive tackle James Williams. Head coach Bill Belichick also announced from his daily press conference that quarterback Kurt Kittner and defensive tackle DeVonte Peterson were also released.
Williams, known as "Big Cat" because of his 6-foot-7, 332-pound frame, was signed by the Patriots on July 29th to add depth to a depleted offensive line that has been without injured starters Matt Light and Tom Ashworth for the duration of training camp. The 36-year-old Williams, a veteran of 12 NFL seasons, signed with the team after the first day of camp and took part in every practice.
"We just felt like it was time to move on," Belichick said. "At this point, for where we are, and given our circumstances and situation, we just felt like we wanted to be fair with him and be up front with him and let him know where we thought everything was going to be headed so that we wouldn't be having a conversation in a week or two that neither side wanted to have."
The Patriots signed Kittner on July 15th to bring in a fourth quarterback into training camp to compete with reserves Rohan Davey and Kliff Kingsbury behind starter Tom Brady. Belichick made a definitive statement earlier in the week, saying that Davey had moved ahead of both Kittner and Kingsbury in the pecking order after the first week of practice. Ultimately, the team felt it needed to give one of the third-string quarterbacks all of the practice reps so that player would have a better chance at making the team. That player would be Kingsbury.
"I think it really comes down to the third quarterback situation, and to be able to split the few opportunities we have for the third guy two ways, rather than one way," Belichick said. "I think part of it is – ironic as it sounds – part of it is probably the fact that Kliff [Kingsbury] has a little bit more experience, at least our system, and is a little further ahead from that standpoint."
In five games with Atlanta last season, Kittner completed 44-of-114 passes (38.6 percent) for 391 yards, two touchdowns and six interceptions after he was pressed into service for an injured Michael Vick. The Patriots had been interested in Kittner since the spring, when they claimed him off waivers from Atlanta only to lose out on his services to the Cincinnati Bengals. He was released less than two weeks later and claimed by the New York Giants, who also eventually released the former fifth-round pick.
"We tried to get Kurt earlier," Belichick said. "Had we gotten him back in the spring when that waiver wire fiasco was going on, it would have maybe given him a better opportunity, but that's the way it goes."
The Patriots also released Peterson, who originally signed in June and was in training camp but never practiced with the team because of an undisclosed injury. Peterson is a three-year veteran of NFL Europe.