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Does new number for Hightower give clues on Waters situation?

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff  September 3, 2012 01:49 PM

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In today's episode of As the Waters Turns (or Flows, as the case may be) ...

With now six days until the regular-season opener, offensive lineman Brian Waters is still nowhere to be found, at least not in the Foxborough area.

Bill Belichick was asked again about the status of the right guard, and whether his designation as "reserve/did not report" changes now in the regular season.

"He's not on the roster. He's either an active player or he's not an active player, and he's not on the roster."

Asked if Waters can now be classified as a contract holdout, Belichick said, "I don't have any more to add to the situation."

But did we get a hint today about the Patriots's feelings toward the veteran? {Cue the dramatic soap opera-type music}

Since linebackers must wear numbers 50 and above in games, rookie Dont'a Hightower's had to be changed from the 45 he's worn since he was drafted by New England to something acceptable under league rules.

What number did he switch to? 54.

That's the number Waters wore last season, and that's the number that up to this point remains listed as his number on the Pats' official roster.

So if the Patriots gave Waters' number away, is it a sign that the relationship between he and the team has gone down the drain (pun intended)? Or is he returning but will get a different number?

Waters still has a locker with nameplate in the locker room, but it has only the bare essentials: chair, white practice jersey, t-shirt.

Fifty-four was also the number of one Tedy Bruschi, so that could be considered a big deal for the rookie as well.

But in the moment, one has to wonder if Hightower getting 54 is the end of Waters's tenure and one of the more bizarre personnel situations in recent Patriots history.

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

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