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Catching up with Tully

Posted by Adam Kilgore, Globe Staff  January 29, 2010 06:05 PM

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tully.jpgThere is some confusion regarding Tully Banta-Cain’s contract status. To clear it up, he is indeed a free agent. And to be a little more specific, he wants to remain a Patriot.

“Oh, yeah. Of course,” Banta-Cain said in a telephone conversation. “I’m hoping that all works out. Right now, I don’t know what can happen. But I’m hoping that will happen.” 

The confusion about what exactly is Banta-Cain's status began in late October. The Patriots cut Banta-Cain, which at first seemed surprising and odd. The reason soon surfaced: The Patriots and Banta-Cain wanted to try to work out an extension, which they could not do because rules prohibit extending a player on a one-year, veteran minimum contract, which is what Banta-Cain was signed to.

At the time, several reports bubbled up that Banta-Cain had signed an extension through the 2011 season. But the sides never actually struck an official agreement, making Banta-Cain an unrestricted free agent this offseason. But the chance for him to sign a long-term remains open.

“That’s still a possibility,” Banta-Cain said. “It just never manifested. It was a possibility. It was a just-in-case situation. There wasn’t anything set in stone. It was just a possibility. I kind of just played my role – just played. I let my agent and so forth figure that other stuff out.”

The NFL’s offseason has not yet started churning, and Banta-Cain has not focused on his status for next year, still shaking off this season. Yesterday, he flew back into Boston after spending more than a week at home in California, where he stayed busy visiting with family.

“Basically, I’m still just coming off the season,” Banta-Cain said. “I haven’t really heard anything yet. There’s still a lot of time. There’s still a lot of things going on. I’m getting settled back in with my life off the field. But I’m sure when the time comes, things will start manifesting.”

When Banta-Cain returned to the Patriots this offseason, he believed he had much to prove. He signed a $12.2 million contract with the 49ers after the 2006 season, and after years of playing understudy in New England he thought he finally get his chance to contribute regularly to a defense. But the 49ers released him after two unproductive, injury-plagued seasons. Banta-Cain felt he had never received a proper chance to show his full ability in San Francisco, and this year vindicated him. He led the Patriots with 10 sacks, 14th in the NFL.

“It feels good to have been able to play more and show a little bit more of what I’m capable of,” Banta-Cain said. “That was really my goal, to be able to show people that I could play the game. My opportunities have been limited, and that was probably the most I had really played in a year.”

Banta-Cain was beat up at times this year, playing through injuries to his ribs and his shoulder. He’s confident he won’t require any surgery this offseason. “I’m letting all my wounds just heal on their own,” he said. “We’ll see what happens, how I feel in a few weeks. Everybody is banged up right up now.”

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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