Punter Miller given the boot
FOXBOROUGH -- Like a golfer with a deft touch, Josh Miller has a knack for placing punts where he wants, especially inside the 20-yard line. His control earned him the reputation as one of the NFL's top directional punters over 11 seasons, the last three in New England.
Still, the 37-year-old Miller entered training camp in a fight for his job as he was recovering from shoulder surgery, and yesterday the Patriots decided to head in another direction. The team released Miller, clearing the way for Danny Baugher and Tom Malone, both 23, to compete for the job.
The Patriots want more time to assess Baugher and Malone and plan to have them split punting duties tonight for the second exhibition game in a row.
Miller had been growing frustrated, and there might have been concern his displeasure would affect Baugher and Malone. Despite paying Miller a $100,000 roster bonus in March, the Patriots cut ties, allowing Miller time to shop his services.
"We're appreciative of the chance to get on the market a bit early and find Josh a new home," said Glenn Schwartzman, Miller's agent. "They wanted to look at the two young guys again and Josh was understandably getting frustrated. In fairness to him, they let him go in a way that doesn't burn any bridges."
Miller, who was limited to 10 games last season because of a shoulder injury, was also the Patriots' holder on field goals and extra points. That role will likely be held by backup quarterback Matt Cassel.
Financial considerations also could have been part of the decision, as Miller was scheduled to earn $820,000, while Baugher and Malone both have one-year, $285,000 contracts.
Although Baugher and Malone are the lone punters in camp, they shouldn't get too comfortable. As Miller used to say, the Patriots probably have a handful of veteran punters on speed dial, and 12-year veteran Mitch Berger was in for a tryout earlier in the month.
Both players have practice squad eligibility, so it's possible both could remain with the club -- although one would be on the eight-man practice squad.
The team also released first-year center/guard Brian Barthelmes, who spent 12 weeks on the practice squad during the 2007 regular season and playoffs.
The Patriots have passed along the following tips:
A rearrangement of the parking lots has relocated the majority of stadium parking spaces on the opposite side of Route 1 from Gillette Stadium. Fans should plan to park across the street from the stadium for the easiest ingress and egress.
With major construction on Interstate 495 at Exit 14 (Route 1), including temporary onramps and offramps, extreme caution is advised.
Friday commuter traffic and summer vacation traffic is expected, which fans may not be accustomed to during regular-season weekend games.
The parking lots on the opposite side of Route 1 from Gillette Stadium have been expanded. This change may alter many fans' parking routine. Fans should be reminded of the following tips:
Traveling from the North: Stay right on Route 1 approaching the stadium and follow signs for P10 for easiest ingress and egress. To access the stadium, fans must cross Route 1 at the marked pedestrian crossings.
Traveling from the South: Because of the newly built median on Route 1, the decision on which side of Route 1 to park must be made prior to the Pine Street intersection (near the Seasonal Specialty Stores and The Lafayette House). Fans wishing to park on the left side of Route 1 (P10 or P11) must stay to the left of the median. Fans wishing to park on the stadium side of Route 1 must stay to the right (P8 or P7).