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PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK

Roster gets a trim

Morton among seven released

The Patriots trimmed their roster to the NFL-mandated 65-player maximum, plus exemptions, with the release of seven players yesterday.

The most notable on the list is running back/return man Chad Morton, who was signed in late June.

Morton, recovering from knee surgery, never practiced with the Patriots, spending the entire training camp on the physically unable to perform list. With the emergence of rookie Ellis Hobbs, and the addition of Andre Davis, Morton's services were no longer needed.

New England also waived cornerback Hank Poteat, an emergency addition to the secondary just before the playoffs began last season.

Also let go were wide receiver Jason Anderson, kicker Robbie Gould, guard Ryan Krug, and defensive linemen Ifo Pili and Santonio Thomas.

The final cut is due Sept. 4, when the roster must be down to 53 players, with no exemptions.

Cool customer

No top-tier receiver was involved in the first round of cuts, but the numbers say a veteran could get the ax by week's end. David Terrell, a free agent signee let go by the Bears in February, said speculation that he could be dropped doesn't concern him. ''I'm cool. It doesn't worry me," Terrell said. ''I'm a Patriot for right now, until [somebody] says anything else. I don't get into the speculation. I can't do anything about it. What I can do is handle what I can handle. When it's time for me to play, play. Other than that, there's nothing I can do. Nothing at all." . . . Perhaps the most common pre-camp prediction was that Doug Flutie would be the backup quarterback, but Flutie didn't know for sure until Rohan Davey was released Monday. ''When I threw a touchdown pass against New Orleans, I think Rohan was the first guy coming over giving me a big hug with a smile on his face, he's that kind of guy," Flutie said. ''He's a great guy and good friends with a lot of people in this locker room. You can't be surprised at anything that happens. It's amazing in the business how you have to just put things behind you and move on, whether it's a win or loss or a situation like this where a veteran player gets released. It's part of the business that just stinks."

The answer man

One of the most popular phrases in the Patriots' locker room is, ''Ask Coach Belichick." Deion Branch, who hasn't played this preseason, despite his claims that he isn't injured, had that response when asked whether he would take the field against the Giants tomorrow. ''We'll make those decisions as we get a little bit closer to game time, but I've told all of the players to be ready to play and that's what I expect them to do," said Bill Belichick. ''How we'll utilize them, we'll figure that out." Branch takes umbrage at talk that he is being held out because of his fragile nature. Listed at 5 feet 9 inches, 193 pounds, Branch had fun with media members who were interested in his actual weight. Saying that he is in the best shape of his career, the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player refused to divulge the number . . . Offensive lineman Matt Light has received the Ron Burton Community Service Award, presented annually by the Patriots.

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