Patriots Roster Changes Continue

Vinny Testaverde     (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The Patriots made a number of roster moves heading into their preseason contest against the Carolina Panthers Firday night. Vinny Testaverde is back, but Artrell Hawkins, Gemara Williams, Kyle Bissinger, Kenny Smith and Tom Malone were released. More on this week's roster moves.

Vinny's Return

The Patriots roster moves this past weekend brought jersey No. 14 back into the mix. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde is back in action after sitting out of training camp, Testaverde joins the team two weeks into the preseason, as promised.

Testaverde enters his 21st season in an NFL uniform, ushering in the era of the nostalgic. At 43, the veteran signal caller has little to prove, but plenty to offer. As the current record holder for most consecutive seasons with a touchdown pass at 20, Testaverde has cemented himself into the record books.

While it's possible that the former Heisman Trophy winner may add to his career totals, the Patriots are hoping that won't be necessary. With Three other signal callers on the roster, Testaverde figures to remain in the same role he held last season – No. 3 emergency quarterback.

Hawkins' Time Has Come

Safety Artrell Hawkins showed up for the Patriots just when they needed him in the fall of 2005, actually it was November 16th just prior to Thanksgiving. New England desperately needed bodies in the secondary, and Hawkins fit the bill. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound 30-year old stepped into a starting role for New England, participating in 5 games, 4 of which he was the starter including both Patriots playoff games.

After helping New England through a rough patch, filling in for the injured Eugene Wilson and Rodney Harrison in 2006, Hawkins became a key component of the Patriots' secondary. It was his versatility that allowed the University of Cincinnati product to move from cornerback to safety to the defensive back in nickel and dime package situations.

DB Artrell Hawkins takes a breather during practice at New England Patriots training camp August 2007 (Photo Kevin Saleeba / Patriotsinsiders.com)

 

Hawkins was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round of the 1998 NFL Draft (43rd overall). He spent his first six seasons with the Bengals (1998-2003) and one with the Carolina Panthers (2004) before joining the Patriots.

Hawkins finished last season in New England with 62 tackles, 1 interception and 15 special teams tackles in the 14 games (12 starts) he played in. Hawkins started every playoff game he appeared in, all five being with the Patriots (2005-06).

Sorting Out The Bottom Of The Roster

The Patriots made four more roster moves last week, including; the release of undrafted rookie free agent LB Kyle Bissinger and second year defensive back Gemara Williams on Saturday the 18th. One Wednesday the 22nd, the team released veteran defensive lineman Kenny Smith and rookie punter Tom Malone.

Bissinger's Tall Task

The New England Patriots released LB Kyle Bissinger on Saturday August 18, 2007. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound defender was part of a group of undrafted free agents to join the team in May. The UAB product attended the team's minicamps and was vying for a backup role. Although Bissinger showed skill on special teams and in camp he had a tall task to unseat incumbent backups Corey Mays and veteran Junior Seau. Bissinger wore number 48 during his tenure with the team.

Williams a Rodney Advocate

Defensive back Gemara Williams was also released on Saturday August 18, 2007. The 5-foot-8, 195-pound University of Buffalo product spent the 2006 season with the Patriots on injured reserve. Competing for a role as a reserve defender, Williams lined up as a cover safety, cornerback and kick returned during the Patriots training camp in 2007. His speed and versatility were on display throughout camp. Although Williams knew he was a long shot to make the final roster, he was determined to work hard every day to improve his odds. Veteran safety Rodney Harrison arguably had the biggest impact on the young defensive back, which Williams explained during an interview in training camp one day.

New England Patriots defensive lineman Kenny Smith works during a line drill at Patriots training camp August 12, 2007 (Photo Kevin Saleeba / Patriotsinsiders.com)

Smith A Victim Of Numbers

DL Kenny Smith was released by the Patriots on Wednesday August 22, 2007. The 6-foot-4, 303-pound defensive lineman joined the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent on June 8, 2007, just after the team's minicamp ended. Smith was caught in a numbers game as the Patriots took a look at experienced defenders who might be able to help the team build much needed depth along the defensive front. The Sixth-year pro spent his first four seasons with the New Orleans Saints (2001-04) and one with the Oakland Raiders (2005) where hew spent the entire season on injured reserve. The Alabama product was originally drafted by New Orleans in the third round of the 2001 NFL Draft (81st overall).

For Smith, beating out the youngsters Le Kevin Smith and Mike Wright proved too tall a task. Fellow free agent Rashad Moore, who was signed at the same time as Smith, remains in the mix for a roster spot on the defensive line.

Malone Bows Out

Punter Tom Malone was the final competitor to Danny Baugher for the starting job as the Patriots team punter. Signed to the Patriots practice squad in December 2006, Malone was added to the teams active roster on January 23, 2007. The 6-foot, 205-pound specialist played in NFL Europa for the Berlin Thunder during the spring, then rejoined the team during training camp. He Baugher, and veteran Josh Miller were part of a three-way competition for the job throughout training camp.

Malone's strong leg was evident throughout the competition as he routinely boomed punts of 60 yards or more in the air. On numerous occasions Malone's punts went unreturnable, sailing deep into the end zone and out of the reach of the Patriots special teams returners. While Malone did spent time working on consistency, his struggles with ball placement may have cost him.

Punter Tom Malone works on his ball drop technique during practice at New England Patriots training camp August 2007 (Photo Kevin Saleeba / Patriotsinsiders.com)

Originally signed by the San Francisco 49ers as a rookie free agent on May 5, 2006, Malone became a free agent when the 49ers release him in June 2006. The USC product averaged 49.0 yards per punt in 2003 setting a school record.


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