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Patriots grant Law release

Not wanting decision to linger, cornerback happy to be free

INDIANAPOLIS -- Having once claimed to be insulted, lied to, and slapped in the face by the Patriots in contract dealings, Ty Law is now delighted he is no longer affiliated with the organization for which he has played his entire NFL career.

The Patriots released the cornerback, a 10-year veteran, yesterday -- per his request -- clearing $12.5 million in cap space and saving more than $9 million in salary and roster bonuses.

Law, who said he didn't want to speak directly with the media, said through his agent, Carl Poston, who was at the NFL Combine, that though he wanted to finish his career with the Patriots, the circumstances made it almost impossible.

"I wanted to retire a Patriot and go into the Hall of Fame as a Patriot, but if that wasn't going to happen, I wanted to become a free agent sooner rather than later," Law said.

Law, who was entering the final year of a seven-year, $51 million contract, is tied with Raymond Clayborn for the franchise record for interceptions with 36, and he started at corner in New England's Super Bowl victories in 2002 and 2004.

"Ty Law had a tremendous career as a New England Patriot," coach Bill Belichick said in a statement. "We wish him well in the future."

Law said he felt relieved that the situation didn't linger deep into the offseason, or worse, into training camp, thereby limiting his options in terms of negotiating with other teams. He even joked that the news of the release was a tonic for his injured left foot, which he is rehabbing after surgery in January.

"Even my foot felt feels better, now," he said.

Law, 31, was the 23d overall pick in the 1995 draft out of Michigan. At 5 feet 11 inches, 200 pounds, he developed into one of the top cornerbacks in the league. He entered last season on a three-year run of Pro Bowl selections. The contract he signed in 1998 at the time was the richest given by the Patriots.

Law started 133 of 141 games for the Patriots, recording 648 tackles and 142 passes defensed. His six interception returns for touchdowns in the regular season are a franchise record.

After saying he couldn't see himself "putting on that uniform again," claiming the Patriots' brass lied to him about negotiating a new contract, Law was certain the 2004 season would be his last with the team. But in late January he said he held out hope he could remain with the team.

Poston said Law spoke with Belichick by phone about the decision to release him. "Belichick was trying to smooth over some of the things that happened between them the last couple of years," Poston said. "Ty stopped him and said, `Hey, forget that stuff. We won together. And now I'm gone.' "

This past season, Law broke his foot at Pittsburgh Oct. 31 and did not play in the last 12 games, including the Patriots' third Super Bowl victory in four seasons. The Patriots won 11 of those games, and by season's end were starting second-year, fourth-round draft pick Asante Samuel and undrafted rookie free agent Randall Gay at cornerback.

After releasing four players Wednesday, including backup cornerback Earthwind Moreland, the Patriots were not facing significant issues in being under the league-mandated salary cap of $85 million. But clearing Law off the books gives them more maneuverability in the free agent market and may set the stage for a much-anticipated extension for quarterback Tom Brady. The team surprised some by taking on Law's $10 million cap number last season. The year before, the Patriots, facing a similar situation, released safety Lawyer Milloy just before the season.

"We're pleased that this happened prior to free agency starting [March 2]," Poston said. "Basically, it's a sign of respect for Ty that the Patriots acted when they did. It could have dragged on like the Lawyer Milloy situation, and we didn't want that.

"The No. 1 thing for him is to get healthy, and continuing being one of the best players in the league."

Poston said he already had heard from three teams who want to visit with Law after the combine.

"I think it's going to be like a donut shop for Ty," he said. "There are so many teams who need top corners. Being one of, if not the top, defensive free agents out on the market, I think the interest will be strong."

Poston said Law's rehabilitation is ahead of schedule.

"The doctors have said Ty will be 100 percent," said Poston. "He's just got to go through his rehab and do everything the doctors are telling him and he'll be just fine. If we find that teams are putting him off because of the injury, then we'll move them to the back burner."

Nick Cafardo of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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