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Patriots cut high-priced Pro Bowl safety Milloy

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By Peter King, SI.com

  Lawyer Milloy
enlargeLawyer Milloy had started 106 consecutive games going back to his rookie season in 1996.
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

The New England Patriots made a stunning cut early Tuesday morning, waiving 29-year-old Pro Bowl strong safety Lawyer Milloy.

The reasons weren't immediately clear, but it is strongly suspected that Milloy's $5.857 million salary-cap number in 2003 -- plus a looming $2 million bonus in 2004 that would inflate his cap value to $6.7 million next year -- was the biggest reason for the shocking move. Milloy was in the fourth year of a seven-year, $35 million contract that he signed in 2000.

"Has it ever been this quiet in here? I don't think it has," linebacker Tedy Bruschi, Milloy's rookie roommate in 1996, told reporters in the locker room. "I think 'shocked' is the word. ... You sort of just shake your head and ask yourself, 'Why?'"

Milloy, a seven-year veteran, is one of the league's premier strong safeties. He made the Pro Bowl in four of the past five seasons. Because of their strength at safety -- Milloy was scheduled to play alongside Pro Bowl veteran Rodney Harrison after the latter's acquisition in free-agency from San Diego this offseason -- the Patriots were able to trade promising safety Tebucky Jones to New Orleans.

"[Tuesday] is a day that nobody is happy about. This isn't the way we wanted this story to end," head coach Bill Belichick said. "This is the hardest player that I have had to release. It was the hardest situation that I've had to go through like this, here or anywhere else."

The Patriots had been trying to get Milloy and his agent, Carl Poston, to agree to a contract restucturing prior to cutting him. Now, they'll be able to spread his salary-cap hit over two years -- $1.4 million this year and $4.2 million next year. But there's no question this will hurt New England's chances to win a very competitive AFC East.

"It doesn't surprise me because I saw it with Drew [Bledsoe] and with Otis [Smith] and with just a lot of guys," quarterback Tom Brady said. "It is a tough business. It is really tough because there is never job security and it is not actually based on your performance either. You can play at a Pro Bowl level and you could show up every day on time and never complain and be a captain and a leader. It is not about if it will happen, it is just when it will happen to each player."

Milloy, who had started 106 consecutive games going back to his rookie season in 1996, was a defensive leader on the Patriots team that won the 2002 Super Bowl. He had 846 tackles, 19 interceptions, seven sacks and seven fumble recoveries.

And now New England will have to play with either Aric Morris, Chris Akins or Antwan Harris alongisde Harrison on Sunday in Buffalo. None of thoese three players, to be sure, can fill Milloy's shoes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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