Patriots make moves to cut roster down

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Patriots make moves to cut roster down

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
Like every NFL team this time of year, the New England Patriots are trying to find the right pieces to create a championship-caliber squad.

That requires adding talent, and at times, letting some get away.

As the Patriots went about trimming their roster down to the 80 players required by tomorrow, they did a little bit of both.

Of the 11 players released, none of the moves stood out more than the decision to release veteran safety James Sanders.

"Tough release there with James Sanders," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said on his weekly press conference Monday afternoon. "James has been a really good guy to have on this team, a hard working kid. Has developed from the time he came to us, he's been a really solid team player for us. We needed to release some people. He was a tough one."

Sanders, a fourth-round pick of the Patriots in 2005, appeared in 80 games for the Pats (50 starts), totally 301 tackles and eight interceptions. Although the Patriots are relatively thin in the secondary, the Pats surely had to weigh whether Sanders likely reduced role justified the 2.8 million salary he's due to make this season.

While Sanders was the most notable release, the Patriots also released tight end Garrett Mills; long snapper Matt Katula (Belichick said the team will sign another long snapper by Thursday); wide receivers Tyree Barnes and Darnell Jenkins; kick Chris Koepplin; defensive end Clay Nurse; defensive tackle Kade Weston; guard Mark Wetterer; defensive back Malcolm Williams and cornerback Jonathan Wilhite.

The Patriots announced the signing of wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, a seventh-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009. The former Rutgers star had eight receptions while appearing in 13 games over the past two seasons for the Jaguars who waived him last week.

New England also announced the return of safety Ross Ventrone, who was released earlier this month after spending most of last season on the practice squad.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Pats' secondary coach: Butler 'is never going to give up the fight'

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Pats' secondary coach: Butler 'is never going to give up the fight'

FOXBORO -- Though he’s still fresh-faced, Patriots cornerback coach Josh Boyer has been on Bill Belichicks’ staff for a dozen years, including the last six presiding over the likes of Darrelle Revis, Aqib Talib, Brandon Browner and Logan Ryan. In all that time, he’s never seen anyone play the position as competitively as Malcolm Butler.

“I would say that’s unique,” Boyer told me today. “It’s one of those things that whether something happens right, wrong or indifferent on that play, you know he’s always gonna be competitive. I think that’s an attribute to just his personal makeup . . . I think all of our guys are competitive but Malcolm is never going to give up the fight no matter what stands in his way or what obstacles he has. He’s always going to be competitive.”

Butler had a unsettling offseason that actually traced all the way back to an in-season contract negotiation that came close but never got completed. When that offer remained the same, and then Stephon Gilmore was paid massive dollars on day one of free agency, Butler, a restricted free agent, shopped himself. But with New Orleans and other teams unwilling to pay the price of a first-round pick, Butler decided he had no choice and returned to Foxboro somewhat reluctantly.

"Can't predict the future," Butler said back on May 25. "Whatever happens, happens."

While Butler wouldn’t commit to wanting to be a Patriot long term, he has made every effort to once again establish himself as the team’s best cornerback while not letting an unsettling contractual situation play play havoc with his on-field performance.

“You guys probably talk about a lot of stuff that we never talk about so we’re just, I’ll give Malcolm credit,” said Boyer, “He’s here. He works hard. We don’t ever talk about other outside issues. It’s all football and I think his focus -- I talked to him yesterday when he was in the building -- he’s excited to be back, excited to work, excited to see what this season holds for him.”