The New England Patriots have issued rookie strong-side linebacker Dont’a Hightower the No. 54, which is the number worn by offensive guard Brian Waters. You can read into this all you want, but it has to be of concern to Patriots fans hoping that Waters will finally return to the team and help give the offensive line a needed veteran boost.
Some have speculated that the Pats could give Waters more money to stay with the team if they are so inclined, as Waters is still out due to “personal issues”. Whether or not he retires isn’t the only question, as Waters could decide to play closer to his home in Texas instead of playing in New England.
It has been a roller coaster ride of speculation over the past week, as there was much optimism earlier when Waters’s gear was shipped to his locker. Then, his locker was cleaned out on Sunday which turned the tables on our thoughts.
Last season, Waters reported to the Patriots left and was still a highly effective player and one of the best pass blockers in the NFL. Although the offensive line worries are overblown, it would certainly be nice to have Waters. Not only is he a great player, but he would also allow Dan Connolly to shift to center and make Ryan Wendell the primary backup at guard and center (a role that Connolly previously held).
In response to questions regarding Waters’s number being given to Hightower, head coach Bill Belichick was his usual self, ”He’s either an active player or he’s not an active player, and he’s not an active player. He’s not on the roster.”
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