By Eric Wilbur, Boston.com staff, 9/2/03
The Patriots released four-time Pro Bowl safety Lawyer Milloy today. Milloy, 29, who had started 106 straight games since his 1996 rookie season, was a defensive leader on the Patriots team that won the 2002 Super Bowl. He had 19 regular-season career interceptions, seven sacks and seven fumble recoveries.
Milloy was in the fourth year of a seven-year, $35 million contract and was to make $4.5 million in 2003. The Patriots had been negotiating to reduce Milloy's cap hit for this season since last winter. Milloy's cap number for 2003 was scheduled to be in the $5.8 million range. By releasing Milloy, the team is allowed to spread out the cap hit over the next two seasons.
"Both sides tried all the way to, truly, the eleventh hour, to try to find a way to make it work but in the end we just weren't able to get to that point," head coach Bill Belichick said today. "But of all of the players that I have released in my career this easily would be the hardest. It's an unfortunate situation all the way around but one that we've made and we will have to move forward with."
When he heard about the move, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady admitted that he was, "About as surprised as you could possibly be."
"He did everything you could ever ask of a player and of a guy that represents this team and this franchise," Brady said. "He showed up every day, never missed a game, never missed a practice, never complained. He was one of those guys where you look into this eyes before the game and you knew exactly what you were going to get. Not only was he a great friend, but he was a great person."
Milloy was originally drafted in the second round of the 1996 draft out of Washington. He appeared in 112 consective games for New England. In his seven seasons with the Patriots, he had 846 tackles.
Milloy is now an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any team.
Aric Morris, Chris Akins or Antwan Harris will likely take Milloy's spot in the lineup, but Belichick did not rule out the possibility of the team acquiring another safety before theie season opener Sunday in Buffalo, or even bringing back Otis Smith, who was released by the team just a few weeks back.
A report on ESPN.com late this afternoon suggested that the Bills may in fact go after Milloy and have him in the lineup for Sunday's game.
"This is a player and person I have immense respect for, and he meant a lot to this team and organization," Belichick said. "Unfortunately he's a casualty of the system. The timing is not good. We tried to find a way to make it work. In the end, we weren't able to get to that point."