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August 27, 2008

Injury bug hits battered offensive line

FOXBORO | An offensive line that has looked overmatched at times and beaten up at others took a couple more shots yesterday.

The big news is that starting right guard Stephen Neal was assigned to the physically unable to perform list as the team made the mandatory cut from 80 down to 75.

Neal, who hasn't practiced all camp, will now remain inactive for at least the first six weeks of the regular season, after which he'll be eligible to return if healthy.

As if that wasn't bad enough news for banged up quarterback Tom Brady, right tackle Ryan O'Callaghan, who started seven games over the last two years, was placed on injured reserve, meaning he's lost for the year.

New England, which just welcomed back to full practice starting left guard Matt Light, remains thin up front.

Russ Hochstein and Billy Yates, both of whom have been able reserves in the past, appear to have the leg up on the competition to fill Neal's starting spot.

Both have missed some time in camp due to injuries.

Wes Britt, who has filled in for Light at left tackle, takes over the third tackle spot, with the ability to play on either side of the line.

Veteran corner Jason Webster, an early free agent signee over the winter, was released, as were fullback Kyle Eckel and offensive lineman Ryan Wendell.

The team will make the final cuts, from 75 down to 53 on Saturday. The Patriots will play their final exhibition tomorrow at the New York Giants.

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