FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots got thinner at one of their perceived weaker positions when they released veteran wide receiver Kenny Britt on Wednesday.
Britt, whose agent, Fadde Mikhail, confirmed the release, has been battling a hamstring injury since June, when he was hurt during minicamp. Britt’s release wasn’t a huge surprise given that he hasn’t practiced during camp or played in the two exhibition games, but it was somewhat notable given the team’s high hopes for him dating to the spring.
“You never know with a hamstring. One day you’ll feel good and then [you’ll feel] something popping,’’ Britt said earlier this week. “Other days you might feel bad and that might be the fastest time that you ran out there. So, it’s really a feel thing, day in and day out.’’
Britt was one of the standouts during OTAs and looked good working with Tom Brady during minicamp up until he was hurt.
Recovering from a hamstring injury, as Britt noted, is often touch and go, particularly for skill position players. Early in training camp, the Patriots and Britt agreed he should take a day to work inside with trainers instead of doing limited work outside. The hope was that he was days away from a return. But two weeks after that Britt was still only able to do limited individual work.
Brady was asked about Britt on Wednesday before news of the receiver’s release.
“I think it’s just different stages at different times,” said Brady. “Whether it’s Kenny or other players, you have setbacks with injuries and so forth, and you don’t get the work. But when you are out there, you just try to get up to speed as best you can.
“Spending extra time when you’re available, I think that’s important. You know, Kenny was here at the end of last year, so I had a lot of reps with him, and hopefully he can make the most of his opportunity.’’
Britt, who is 6 feet 3 inches and 230 pounds, signed with the Patriots in December. He played in three games at the end of last season, catching two passes for 23 yards, and earned approximately $206,000 this offseason in roster and workout bonuses.
Britt reportedly spent time working out with Brady on the West Coast over the offseason, though Brady wouldn’t confirm or deny those sessions took place when asked about on Wednesday before Britt’s release.
Though he wasn’t able to get on the field much, Britt’s sunny personality and big smile made an impression in New England. His injury never seemed to get him down, as he’d dance across the practice field during warm-ups in camp before heading to the separate conditioning field.
The Patriots now have one fewer candidate at receiver, where Britt, if healthy, projected as a third or fourth option behind Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, and Phillip Dorsett. Britt’s release may lead to more opportunities for Cordarrelle Patterson or Eric Decker and could create a roster spot for a player such as Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios or Devin Lucien.
The Patriots, however, might need to explore other options via trade or free agent signing to find a bigger outside receiver to more directly fill Britt’s projected role.