ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Patriots announced that running back Leon Washington would be the seventh inactive player for Sunday’s season opener against the Buffalo Bills, joining tight end Rob Gronkowski, running back Brandon Bolden, safeties Duron Harmon and Nate Ebner, wide receiver Aaron Dobson and offensive lineman Will Svitek, who had all previously been declared out due to injury.
The move comes as a mild surprise because of the fact that in re-signing Washington on Saturday, the team guaranteed his base salary for this season because he is a veteran of at least four seasons. If they had waited until Monday to re-sign him, Washington's deal would not be guaranteed (veterans of four-plus seasons on the Week 1 roster have their salary guaranteed).
The move also means that the Patriots are down to just three running backs for Sunday’s game with Bolden (knee) inactive. That leaves Stevan Ridley, the presumptive starter, Shane Vereen and LeGarrette Blount.
Washington finished second in the NFL in kickoff return average last season, an area he was expected to help the Patriots in this season. With him not playing, it could be either Blount or rookie Josh Boyce as the Patriots' primary kickoff returner.
On the Bills' side, the team announced that starting safety Jairus Byrd would not play as he continues to deal with a foot injury. That leaves Buffalo down two starters in the secondary, as cornerback Stephon Gilmore is also inactive.