FOXBORO, Mass. - The New England Patriots activated cornerback Asante Samuel on Saturday, lifting the two game roster exemption given to them by the league. The team also signed LB Corey Mays and DL Santonio Thomas to the active roster and released CB Tory James and TE Marcellus Rivers.
The move to activate Samuel was not unexpected. Samuel is New England's top cornerback and the team's Franchise player. Although Samuel held out of training camp and the off-season workout program, he managed to keep in shape by training on his own.
The Patriots move to place Samuel on the active roster likely means that defensive back Randall Gay will move back into a reserve role and cornerback Ellis Hobbs will remain the starter opposite Samuel. All three cornerbacks are expected to rotate into the lineup based upon game conditions and how well Samuel is able to play after missing three months of work in Foxboro.
Practice Squad Promotions
LB Corey Mays and DL Santonio Thomas were signed by the Patriots to the active roster on Saturday. Terms of the agreements were not available.
Mays participated in eight games for the Patriots last year as an undrafted rookie. The Notre Dame product is considered one of the team's valuable special teams members and a reserve at the linebacker position. He was released as part of the Patriots final round of roster cuts on September 1, 2007. He was signed to the team's practice squad after clearing waivers.
Thomas is a third-year reserve defensive lineman out of the University of Miami (FL). The 6-foot-4, 305-pound defender has been part of the Patriots practice squad the past two seasons. He has seen time at both defensive tackle and defensive end for the Patriots but has not participated in a regular season game.
Two Players Released
TE Marcellus Rivers and CB Tory James were released on Saturday as the team made space to sign Mays and Thomas to the active roster.
Rivers is a sixth-year pro who had signed with the team on August 8, 2007 as the Patriots fought to keep healthy bodies on the field at the tight end position. He played well in the team's preseason games, and found his way on to the active roster September 3, 2007 after being released as part of the final round of roster cuts two days earlier.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end was expected to hold down a roster spot until second -year pro David Thomas could return from a broken foot. Thomas appears to be inching closer to playing shape, although he was downgraded for Sunday's game against the Jets. Rivers has amassed 51 receptions for 395 yards and four touchdowns over his NFL career.
James, who was signed as an insurance policy in case Asante Samuel held out till week 10 of the regular season, was released on Saturday as well. The veteran defender played in the league for 11 seasons, most recently for the Cincinnati Bengals (2003-06).
A savvy veteran corner, James spent time with the Patriots second and third units on defense during the preseason. He fought for a roster spot against the team's younger defenders like Mike Richardson, Brandon Meriweather and Willie Andrews.