FOXBOROUGH — The Brian Waters saga has become the summer soap opera of the Patriots as the Pro Bowl guard still hasn’t rejoined the team.
As of Monday, there were six days until the Patriots’ regular-season opener in Tennessee and Waters still was on the reserve/did not report list, which means he does not count toward the 53-man roster.
Coach Bill Belichick was asked yet again about the 35-year-old Waters, and whether his absence still can be described as being for personal reasons, which is what Belichick said during minicamp and early in training camp.
“Well, he’s not on the roster,” Belichick said. “He’s either an active player or he’s not an active player, and he’s not an active player. He’s not on the roster.”
Asked if Waters now can be considered a contract holdout, Belichick said, “I really don’t have any more to add to the situation.”
For the record, according to league rules the Patriots can terminate Waters’s contract or trade him without the player reporting to the team. But did we get a hint Monday about the Patriots’ feelings toward Waters (cue the dramatic soap opera-type music)?
Since linebackers must wear numbers in the 50s or 90s in games, rookie Dont’a Hightower’s had to be changed from the 45 he’s worn since he was drafted to something acceptable under league rules. What number did he switch to? Fifty-four.
That’s the number Waters wore last season, and that’s the number that up to this point remains listed as his on the Patriots’ official roster.
So if the Patriots gave Waters’s number away, is it a sign that his relationship with the team has gone down the drain? Or will he return but get a different number?
Waters still has a stall with a nameplate in the locker room, but it has only the bare essentials: chair, white practice jersey, T-shirt.
Fifty-four was also the number of one Tedy Bruschi, so maybe it would have been too much to ask Hightower to wear it. But for the moment, one has to wonder if Hightower getting 54 signals the end of Waters’s tenure.
Happy to be here
The Patriots added former Brown University standout James Develin to their practice squad on Sunday, helping continue his quest to reach the NFL as a fullback.
Develin was released in the final cuts by the Bengals after spending a year-plus on their practice squad.
“It’s awesome, man. I couldn’t be happier,” Develin said of joining the Patriots. “I have a lot of people up here that I care about — all my friends at Brown, all my coaches, my sister recently moved up here, so it’s actually like a homecoming for me. I just really appreciate the opportunity to come here and play.”
Develin played defensive end at Brown, but was about 40 pounds too light for that position in the NFL.
“I made the choice with my agent and I,” he said. “Coming out of college, my skill set was more geared towards fullback, because D-ends in this league are absolute freak athletes. But I’ve always been a hard hitter and I thought that I could make it as a fullback and that’s what I did.
“It’s definitely beneficial to kind of know what defenses are looking at and what guys are trying to do to you as far as pass rushing and stuff, because that’s a big thing as a fullback, you have to block the edge rushers and stuff.
“But I think the main thing is mentality, because offense and defense mentality is totally different. Offense you have to be totally calm and composed and know what you have to do; defense you go out there and try to get to the ball. I think that kind of fierce mentality is what helps most.”
Belichick was asked to compare the McCourty brothers, Devin of the Patriots and Jason of the Titans: “There are definitely some similarities, as you would expect,” he said about the defensive backs. “They’re both fast and they’re both aggressive, good tacklers, good solid players. We’ll never get a better look at a guy [imitating him in practice] than we will this week from Devin. It’s about as close as it gets.” . . . The Patriots were back on the practice field, with players wearing shells and shorts. Safety Steve Gregory and running back Danny Woodhead returned after both were not spotted Sunday. However, running back Shane Vereen and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe continued to be out. Safety Patrick Chung was still wearing a red, non-contact jersey and offensive lineman Nick McDonald was present but did not participate.