The Patriots are eyeing the return next week of defensive end Jermaine Cunningham from his PED suspension.
Asked Tuesday about the team's open roster spot and their plans to fill it, Bill Belichick mentioned Cunningham is expected back next week.
"We would anticipate Jermaine Cunningham returning to the team after this game, so were going to need a spot for that if he comes back and is activated," Belichick explained in his noon-hour conference call. "I know it hasnt happened yet, but thats on the horizon and we would need a spot for that. One thing weve talked about is just leaving that spot open in anticipation of that happening rather than fill it and have to reopen it, that type of thing. Well look at our options and try to do what we think is best for everybody involved here."
The Patriots aren't closing the door on adding a 53rd player to the roster, according to Belichick.
"Thats something that Ill talk to player personnel chief Nick Caserio about today," said Belichick. "Weve had a couple preliminary thoughts on it but nothing definitive. Were both doing a little research and thinking and trying to see where some of our players are relative to their availability this week. Well have that conversation probably later on this afternoon and meet with the coaching staff on it and figure out where we are. But as you know, we have to inactive seven players anyway, so signing a player at that position to then have to inactivate him, the gain on that is marginal."
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The Patriots announced three roster moves on Monday night. Two resulted in players parting ways with the team. The other opened a roster spot without a departure.
In addition to releasing both defensive tackle Terrance Knighton and center Bryan Stork, the Patriots also placed guard Tre' Jackson on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.
Jackson began training camp on PUP, and he has not practiced with the team since camp kicked off. Now that he is on the reserve/PUP, the second-year player out of Florida State will be forced to miss the first six weeks of the regular season, but he will not count against the active roster during that period.
Jackson, a fourth-round pick last year, played through knee issues at times as a rookie, seeing action in 13 games and starting in nine. He has been spotted on the practice fields this summer, but he has been limited to warm-ups and conditioning work.
In his absence, the Patriots still have depth at guard, which may have had something to do with the team's willingness to make Jackson unavailable for almost the first half of the season. Rookie Joe Thuney looks like he will be the starter at left guard, while Josh Kline could be the option at right guard to start the season. Jonathan Cooper and Shaq Mason are dealing with injuries at the moment, but they both returned to the practice field on Monday, and they also have a shot at the right guard job. Rookie sixth-rounder Ted Karras could also factor in as a reserve at either guard or center if he makes the club.
The Patriots currently have 80 players on the active roster and need to reduce that number to 75 by 4 p.m. on Tuesday.