It's a busy time for Bill Belichick and the Patriots, who have until 4 p.m. Saturday to get down to the league-mandated 53-man roster limit.
They already made four moves Friday. The Patriots announced the release of defensive lineman Damione Lewis and offensive lineman Eric Ghiaciuc, and multiple reports indicate they've also cut tight ends Rob Myers and Carson Butler.
Those four transactions have gotten the Patriots down to 71 players. One caveat: If they keep offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka, he won't count against the 53-man limit until Week 2 due to his league-issued suspension, which gives the Patriots extra flexibility.
"[We] have to get down to the business of reducing our squad," Belichick said Friday afternoon on a conference call. "It's been a busy morning, and also a busy day in general. I know everybody in the league is going through the same thing — a lot of phones ringing."
Lewis' release could be a good sign for undrafted free agent Kyle Love, who was also on the roster bubble. The defensive tackle has performed well this summer, and he now might have an opportunity to make the team.
As for the veteran Lewis, Belichick had good things to say about him, but he said there were other players who were a better fit at this point.
"I like a lot of things about Damione," Belichick said. "He's a solid guy. He's a good player. He's smart, worked hard. In the end, we felt we had some other people ahead of him. Really, that’s what it came down to. There isn’t really anything I don’t like about Damione Lewis. I think there are just other players we like a little bit better for one reason or another."
As of late Friday afternoon, Belichick said the coaching staff had geared its attention toward the Bengals, who visit New England in the season opener Sept. 12. The personnel department was busy with the roster transactions.
This is a good indicator that Belichick and the coaches have already determined their 53-man roster. It's likely they've got to work out 11th-hour specifics — possible trading partners, waiver claims and things of that nature — before the rest of the transactions go down. Asked about a trade, though, Belichick said he had "no idea" if the Patriots would go that route.
"Ultimately," Belichick said, "it will all have to come together here in the next 24-36 hours."
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