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Patriots release Redmond

FOXBOROUGH -- J.R. Redmond thought he was going to get back on the field in the final exhibition game against the Chicago Bears and then make his bid for a Patriots roster spot, but he won't get that opportunity.

Redmond, who was released by the team yesterday, had missed the past few weeks with bruised ribs, but had returned to practice last week. When he didn't play against the Philadelphia Eagles Friday night, it didn't really hit him that this might be the end. But yesterday morning the 2000 third-round draft pick, who helped the team win its Super Bowl, was gone.

"You're never prepared for it," said Redmond. "It took me by surprise, but maybe I can go somewhere and start over and have a chance to prove myself. This happens to a lot of players. I have confidence in myself. I think if I can stay healthy and I get a consistent chance to be out there, I can run the football. I've been doing that all my life."

Redmond, whose best moment as a Patriot came on the winning drive in Super Bowl XXXVI, when he caught three passes, was released with another running back who had intrigued the Patriots a year ago -- Antwoine Womack. Also cut were defensive lineman Ken Kocher and defensive end Buck Rasmussen. The Patriots' roster, down to 77, must be trimmed to 65 by tomorrow at 4 p.m.

The Patriots last season took Womack out of Virginia in the seventh round, and basically red-shirted him (he was placed on the non-football injury list last Aug. 27) as he recovered from major knee surgery. Womack looked fine in minicamp, but he incurred a groin strain in training camp, and the team decided it couldn't wait any longer.

That leaves Antowain Smith, Kevin Faulk, Patrick Pass, Frank Moreau, Larry Centers, and Fred McCrary as viable backs. The Patriots probably will keep five backs, including Mike Cloud, who was in the locker room yesterday and appears to be progressing well after calf surgery.

The interesting survivor is Pass, who protects the team at halfback and fullback.

Pass understands that because he was a seventh-round pick in the same draft in which Redmond was selected, his status is never totally secure. Still, he has survived while others have come and gone.

"It's a tough loss," said Pass about Redmond. "J.R. and I came into the league together, so we had a special bond. We were brothers almost. You get used to seeing his face in the locker room and being around him. For me, it was tough to swallow, to come in here and they're not here anymore."

Pass said he tries to make the most of every opportunity he gets.

"Whether it's special teams or offense, whatever it might be, [I try to] make as few mistakes as possible and play hard," said Pass. "I can only do my job and I let God take care of the rest."

Pass played for Utica in the New York-Penn League as a Florida Marlins outfield prospect before being drafted into the NFL. In his final year at Georgia, he decided he wanted to devote his time to being a football player, and when the Patriots drafted him, he quit baseball.

Pass was a teammate of Robert Edwards at Georgia, and then followed him to New England. He roomed with Edwards and went through Edwards's remarkable comeback from a knee injury everyone told Edwards would never heal enough for him to make it back. Pass was there when Edwards was cut by the Patriots after he began to incur injuries (similar to Womack), such as hamstring and groin pulls, while overcompensating for his rebuilt knee. Edwards landed with and is still with the Dolphins, and Pass is hanging in with the Patriots.

Pass was first tried as a receiver in training camp his rookie season and then was converted to fullback. The Patriots didn't believe he had the speed to be an every-down back, but they thought he had enough to protect the team in case something happened to Smith or Faulk.

"I've been at fullback the last three years and I'd developed that fullback mentality a little bit, but this year I've been back at tailback a lot and now I'm beginning to get my tailback mentality back, to use my stiff-arm and run with some power," said Pass.

"I've always been pretty strong," Pass addeed. "I think [I have] a running back's size but a fullback's strength. I think I can work on my run-blocking and get better at that. But I feel I can catch the ball out of the backfield. I can block. And I can line up as a receiver. I did that in college."

What Pass has learned from his experience with Edwards, Womack, and Redmond is that you have to stay healthy to survive in the league.

"Really, you need to enjoy every minute you're doing this and thank the Lord for the opportunity and hope that you stay healthy," he said. "If you're healthy, you can show what you can do. You can keep improving so the coaches can see you're improving."

Pass, a die-hard Atlanta Braves fan, believes he could have made it as a ballplayer if he had stuck with it after being drafted out of high school, but his first love was football. And for a while he was enamored with doing both.

"A lot of people think I cheated myself out of being really outstanding at one sport or the other because when baseball season started, I played baseball," he said. "And then I'd go back to school and work on my football, and I was always behind because I was trying to catch up with the guys who had already been there all summer."

He's aware the Patriots still have to make more cuts.

"I just consider myself a privileged kid," said Pass. "With all the things going on in the world, to be able to do something that most kids only dream of is something I cherish every day. I'd love to be the starting running back; who wouldn't? If I had to run the ball 20 times a game, I'd be ready to do that. But for me, the important thing is to watch Antowain and Kevin and stay in tune with the game in case I'm called upon. But the big thing is to always enjoy what you are doing."

Which is not what Redmond is doing this morning.

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