|Vinny Testaverde returns for 21st NFL season|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 18 August 2007 14:04|
The move was expected once the Patriots completed two-a-day practice sessions last week. The 43-year-old quarterback signed with New England last Nov. 14 and played in three regular-season games, including the finale in which he extended his streak to 20 seasons with at least one touchdown pass.
The Patriots also released safety Artrell Hawkins, cornerback Gemara Williams and linebacker Kyle Bissinger.
Testaverde, the top overall pick in the 1987 draft by Tampa Bay after winning the Heisman Trophy at Miami, also has played for Cleveland, Baltimore, the New York Jets and Dallas.
He provides an experienced backup to Tom Brady. The Patriots other quarterback, Matt Cassel, has thrown just 32 passes in two seasons with the team after playing sparingly as a backup at Southern California.
Brady, Cassel and Matt Gutierrez, a rookie free agent, played in New England's 27-24 exhibition loss to the Tennessee Titans on Friday night.
Testaverde has started 208 of his 226 NFL games and is in the top 10 on the career lists for yards passing, attempts, completions and touchdown passes.
He was out of the NFL last season when coach Bill Belichick, who had only two quarterbacks on the roster, asked if he wanted to be an insurance policy.
``We all knew what the situation was going to be. I knew I was the emergency guy,'' Testaverde said.
The Patriots signed Hawkins in 2005 when their secondary was hit hard by injuries. He spent the previous season with Carolina after six years with Cincinnati and developed into a key contributor to New England's defense.
Starting safeties Rodney Harrison and Eugene Wilson, both sidelined for substantial portions of last season, are healthy again. And several young safeties have developed, making Hawkins, 30, expendable.
``Any time you release a veteran player it's hard and Artrell is very professional guy, good player, a tough kid,'' Belichick said in a conference call. ``He stepped into a tough situation two years ago with not being with the team early in the year.''
Williams spent all last season on injured reserve after signing with the Patriots as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Buffalo.
Bissinger was signed on May 8 as an undrafted rookie free agent from Alabama-Birmingham.
Belichick said the Patriots ``didn't play very good run defense in the second half'' against Tennessee.
He praised the play of defensive lineman Le Kevin Smith, a sixth-round draft pick last year who had one of the four sacks against Vince Young.
``Le Kevin's made a jump from last year to this year, in his offseason training, his strength and conditioning and his quickness and explosion,'' Belichick said. ``He's still got a long way to go, but he's improved quite a bit from last year.''
He also complimented cornerback Randall Gay, who has started during Asante Samuel's current holdout.
``Randall's had a good camp,'' Belichick said. ``He's done a solid job out there.''
The Patriots have Sunday off and play their third exhibition game Friday night at Carolina.