FOXBOROUGH -- In one press release, the Patriots wiped out three former fourth-round draft picks yesterday.
Quarterback Rohan Davey, Class of '02, and running back Cedric Cobbs and safety Dexter Reid, Class of '04, were waived a day before the Patriots must get the roster down to 65 players and six NFL Europe exemptions. The roster is at 79 right now, so eight moves must be made by 4 p.m. today.
Yesterday's releases show that the Patriots are a deep team; after all, fourth-rounders are often valuable players. They also show how inexact a science the draft is; even teams that draft well can make mistakes, and the Patriots aren't afraid to cut their losses.
Davey's release apparently means seventh-round pick Matt Cassel will remain as the third quarterback.
Davey, who was a standout at LSU, went about as far as he could in the Patriots' system, and once local hero Doug Flutie came aboard, his days were numbered. Bill Belichick spoke fondly of Davey, commending him for his leadership and his ability to give his defense a good look at the opposing quarterback on the scout team.
''How he'll really be able to do if he's given an opportunity to take every snap, to call every play, to get every rep in practice, that's unfortunately something that at this point we just can't provide," said Belichick. ''I thought that when he had a chance to do that in Europe that his play moved up significantly.
''But given the circumstances of his career, our situation, there's going to be a crossroads there; it was today, but it could have been a year from now or it could have been somewhere in between. Fifteen years ago, it wouldn't have been the case. When you don't have free agency and all of that, then you can keep the player in your system and keep developing him and keep him as long as you want.
''Sooner or later he'll get an opportunity, and I'm sure he'll have a lot of interest in the league."
Davey may not be unemployed long. There are quarterback issues in Chicago, where rookie Kyle Orton has been named the starter, and in Miami, where Gus Frerrotte and A.J. Feeley haven't lit it up. And Davey's college coach, Nick Saban, is now head coach in Miami.
Reid, who played in 13 regular-season games and all three playoff games last year, also should draw interest around the league.
While Cobbs and Reid were somewhat surprising cuts, the players felt worst for Davey, who has been on two Super Bowl champions.
''He was a person that I could always rely on," said Tom Brady. ''He always had great insight in what we were doing. Rohan always carried a great attitude out here. He'll be missed by everybody. He has a lot of close friends in this locker room. He had the respect from everybody.
''If you're not out there playing, you still have a role. You have to do things to help this team win. It's all about winning games. If you can't do anything to help the team win, then you can't be here. Rohan made the effort every week to get us ready to play and he was ready to play every time he was called on."
Reid, who is just 24 years old, changed his number from 42 to Ty Law's 24 early in training camp, but he was no Ty Law.
Asked whether a rookie like Reid might have gotten a false sense of security from playing so much last year, when the secondary was depleted by injuries, Belichick said, ''It's possible. It would be hard for me to say what's inside of each player's mind, what he thinks of himself or his role or the team or anything else.
''But, yes, I think that's possible.
''Sometimes you hear about guys who do better in their first year than in their second year. There could be a lot of reasons for that, but it's not like he was here for a full year. So we're just basing the evaluation on what we saw last year and what we've seen this year in camp, from not only him but from the other players that he is competing with, not only at his position, but also other players on the roster that would compete for playing time in the kicking game."
James Sanders, a fourth-round pick this year, is one of those who made Reid expendable.
''I think football is really important to [Sanders]," Belichick said. ''He's a really serious, hard-working kid. He takes everything that you tell him to heart and really tries to do it and works very hard to improve as a player.
''For a rookie, he's probably one of the more professional [ones], even though he doesn't really even know what a professional is, but in his own way."
In Cobbs's case, the young running back just never got on the field.
''There were other people ahead of him," Belichick said. ''We have to cut our numbers down, and the guys that are ahead are here and the guys that were further down aren't. Although, in Davey's case, it was a little bit more of a special situation. There were a lot of circumstances involved in that one. There are other players ahead of Cedric."
They are Corey Dillon, Kevin Faulk, Patrick Pass, Kory Chapman, and Kyle Eckel.
Chapman and Eckel have been getting significant playing time while Cobbs nursed assorted injuries this summer. Cobbs suffered from the old ''can't make the club from the tub" philosophy. Last season, he played in only four games after being on the physically unable to perform list.
Belichick certainly downplays how deep the Patriots are, realizing that in one game some of that depth could be wiped out. But there aren't many teams that would be in position to jettison three fourth-rounders on one day.
What was cut yesterday was probably some pretty good talent. But when you're the world champions three times in four years, you can't keep everyone.