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A shift for Samuel?

Agent says the lines of communication open

With linebacker Lance Briggs signing a one-year deal with the Bears yesterday, Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel is the only franchise-tagged player whose situation remains in limbo. Might an agreement be forthcoming?

"The Patriots and I are working through this process, the lines of communication are open," Samuel's agent, Alonzo Shavers, said last night, two days before the Patriots open training camp. "We all have the same goal -- for Asante to be in camp on time, or as close to on time as we can possibly have it."

That indicates a shift of sorts, because Samuel said he intended to sit out until the 10th week of the regular season. When Samuel made that declaration, there was a chance of the sides reaching a long-term contract agreement.

But with the July 16 deadline for long-term extensions passed, Samuel can only play for a one-year deal, which might have altered his decision-making process.

"My goal is to have him there on time and have him play football," Shavers said. "There are a few things that have to take place for that to happen."

Briggs also threatened to hold out until the 10th week of the season, but accepted his $7.206 million tender offer.

"It doesn't affect Asante in any manner," Shavers said. "Congratulations to Lance in getting that done, but we're in totally different situations. You can't compare the two. We just have to be patient and take it one day at a time."

Perhaps part of the blueprint in which Briggs signed his deal could be a catalyst toward a resolution between the Patriots and Samuel. The Bears agreed to pay $1 million in the form of an advance, while promising Briggs they would not place the franchise tag on him next year if he participates in 75 percent of the team's defensive snaps.

Samuel was tendered a one-year, $7.79 million contract. Of the seven NFL players tagged this offseason, three signed extensions and three signed the one-year tender.

Washington off PUP list
Patriots receiver Kelley Washington, one of eight players placed on the physically unable to perform list Tuesday, was removed from the list yesterday and is cleared to practice.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 215-pound Washington, who signed as a free agent in the offseason after four years with the Bengals, is part of what projects to be an intense battle for roster spots among a 12-member receiver corps.

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