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Patriots notebook

Their leftovers being gobbled up

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / September 6, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH - Offensive lineman Steve Maneri became the latest Patriot to be cut and quickly claimed by another team.

Of the cuts made by the Patriots since Saturday, six players have been claimed by other teams. Yesterday, Maneri was awarded to the Chiefs, the only team to put in a claim on him.

More than 15 claims were put in for players cut by the Patriots in recent days. When asked about the focus on his former players, coach Bill Belichick didn’t speculate on a reason.

“I think we’ve had a competitive camp. We have whatever it is [number of] guys on other teams now?’’ Belichick said. “We had a lot of guys battling it out in a lot of different positions. I can’t really speak to what other teams did, but the fact that they are with other teams probably says something about what the level of competition was at different positions on our team.’’

Teams seemed to rely on the waiver wire this year to fill out their rosters instead of trades, Belichick added. The Patriots had conversations with a few teams about trades, but Belichick said no more than usual.

The Patriots were hopeful rookie tight ends Lee Smith and Will Yeatman would clear waivers and be added to the team’s practice squad, but AFC East rivals Buffalo (Smith) and Miami (Yeatman) swooped in.

Both players had to clear waivers before the Patriots could sign them to the practice squad. Once a player is released, Belichick said, “you have a pretty good expectation that he’s not going to be here. If you want him, then you keep him on the roster. Once you’ve put him out there then you can expect to lose him.’’

Table for 2 With Smith and Yeatman gone, when the Patriots break up for positional meetings, tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski can just stay at their lockers.

They are a group of two as the Patriots move into the first week of the season.

“It’s much quieter in there with me and [Gronkowski] in there,’’ Hernandez said. “I’m sure someone else will come in, but I don’t mind it. He’s a great tight end and I don’t mind it being just us.’’

Hernandez and Gronkowski accounted for 16 touchdowns last season and figure to be just as important in the offense this year in just their second season. The expectations are enough to keep both players focused for the season opener.

“It’s basically the same thing as always, whether it’s two or five of us,’’ Gronkowski said. “I still have to go out there and do what I do and do what the coaches ask me to do and perform how I can perform.’’

Bodden back A few players returned to practice yesterday, as cornerback Leigh Bodden and offensive linemen Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell were present for the media portion.

The Patriots practiced in helmets and shells on the lower fields behind Gillette Stadium.

Players not seen at practice included wide receiver Taylor Price, cornerback Kyle Arrington, running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer, and defensive ends Mark Anderson and Jermaine Cunningham.

Practice squad set Once the frenzied transaction period ended, the Patriots settled on eight players for their practice squad.

The team officially signed linebacker Markell Carter, running back Eric Kettani, defensive end Aaron Lavarias, wide receiver Kerry Taylor, safety Ross Ventrone, and offensive linemen Matt Kopa, Nick McDonald, and Thomas Welch.

The Patriots drafted Carter in the sixth round out of Central Arkansas. Kettani was signed as a rookie free agent in 2009 out of Navy. He was on the reserve military list and activated this season.

Kopa was a rookie free agent out of Stanford last year signed by the 49ers. He was on their practice squad until the Dolphins signed him from the practice squad to their 53-man roster. He was inactive the last eight games of the season and was cut Saturday by Miami.

Lavarias was signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Idaho.

McDonald is a 6-foot-4-inch, 316-pounder who was a rookie free agent out of Grand Valley State who was inactive last season for the Packers.

Ventrone returns after a stint last season on the Patriots practice squad.

Taylor was signed by the Packers out of Arizona State as a rookie free agent this season. Welch was a seventh-round draft pick out of Vanderbilt last year by the Patriots. He was waived and signed to the Vikings practice squad and was released by Minnesota Saturday.

Numbers game A few players changed their numbers: Arrington will wear 24; cornerback Antwaun Molden 27; safety Sergio Brown 31; Vereen 34.

Also, safety James Ihedigbo will wear No. 44; Kettani 36; and Tarpinian 53. Defensive lineman Gerard Warren now will be No. 98.

Shalise Manza Young of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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