Patriots cut veteran safety Sanders

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Patriots cut veteran safety Sanders

By Phil Perry
CSNNE.com

The Patriots have had questions at the safety position all preseason, and today they lopped off a former starter.

No, not Brandon Meriweather.

According to ESPN, the Patriots have informed James Sanders that they plan to cut him. Sanders was in the starting lineup against the Lions on Saturday as the Pats fell, 34-10. Sanders confirmed the news on Twitter.

ESPN's Mike Reiss reports that the Patriots cut Sanders, as opposed to traded him, so that he has the opportunity to sign with a team of his choosing. Reiss also said that Sanders holds no grudge against the Patriots, though he feels as though he wasn't given a chance to compete for a spot.

Sanders was entering his seventh season with the Patriots. At around 2 p.m. he tweeted "It's been real New England." A bit later, he added, "Thanks for all the love Pats fans!!!", and then, "Any teams out there need a starting safety!!!??"

"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. The Pats surely had to weigh whether Sanders likely reduced role justified the 2.8 million salary he's due to make this season.

"What's goin on," ex-teammate Ellis Hobbs said in his own tweet. "They got rid of the smartest player . . . in the Patriot organization?!"

Meriweather has put together several less-than-stellar performances this summer in the Patriots secondary, and some wondered whether he might be on the bubble even though the Pats are thin at safety.

Now, without Sanders, they're downright anemic. Meriweather, a Pro Bowler last year, headlines a group that includes Patrick Chung, Sergio Brown, James Ihedigbo and Josh Barrett.

Patriots have perfect attendance at final practice of AFC Championship week

Patriots have perfect attendance at final practice of AFC Championship week

FOXBORO -- The Patriots had perfect attendance at Friday's practice, meaning they had all 53 players on their active roster present and accounted for at all three practices this week. 

Contrast that with how things have gone for the Steelers this week, and there is a stark difference. Star running back Le'Veon Bell missed each of his team's first two on-the-field workouts this week, and several Steelers players are dealing with a bug that seems to have circulated the locker room. 

The Patriots could have an interesting game-day roster decision to make should Chris Hogan (thigh), Malcolm Mitchell (knee) and Danny Amendola (ankle) both be healthy enough to play on Sunday. They have not entered a game with five receivers in uniform this season but could potentially dress Mitchell, Amendola, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Michael Floyd.

Other players listed as limited participants in practice this week are Brandon Bolden (knee), Martellus Bennett (knee), Dont'a Hightower (shoulder) and Jabaal Sheard (knee).

Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

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Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

What goes through Dont'a Hightower’s mind in the minutes before he takes the field and lowers himself into a cauldron of collisions, pain and exultation?

Not a thing.

“I rest. I literally rest,” said the Patriots Pro Bowl inside linebacker. “I don’t do anything else. I sit at my locker, I don’t listen to music. I don’t do anything out of the ordinary. I don’t look at film, I don’t look at notes. I’m just relaxed. Calm before the storm. I’ve done enough preparing, I’ve done enough notes, I’ve done enough of that stuff during the week. If I don’t know it by now, I don’t know it. It’s not gonna help me last minute. It’s only gonna make me play slower.”

By the time an NFL team hits the field – in the Patriots case, runs out of a giant, inflatable helmet while Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” blares – they are primped, polished, taped and glistening.

But what is their day like leading up to that? I asked a few Patriots to take me through their game-day prep from wakeup to anthem to give me insight into what we don’t see.  

You can hear Hightower, Nate Solder, Alan Branch, Devin McCourty and Rob Ninkovich detail the steps they take to get game-ready. French toast is involved. So are naps. And sock preparation.

It all builds to that moment of theater that Ninkovich says is what players truly miss when they leave the game – that feeling of euphoria.

“When we finally get to run out, that’s the most exciting time in the world,” says Solder. “The crowd wasn’t there earlier when we went out there and all of a sudden, the crowd is there. Very exciting, very fun, especially with the guys you work so hard with.”

Says McCourty, “I always think when I run out of the tunnel to look up and say, ‘Thank you’ just to be able to play.”

Listen to them tell their stories here: