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Wednesday, March 2, 2011
AFC East moves: Neal retires, Gholston cut


One of the NFL's more remarkable careers has come to an end.

New England Patriots right guard Stephen Neal announced his retirement after 10 seasons.

Neal didn't play a down of college football. He was a wrestler at Cal State-Bakersfield and signed as an undrafted rookie project. He didn't make the team, and was signed to the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad. But the Patriots saw enough that they signed him to their active roster later that year.

Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia helped Neal evolve into a quality player for several years.

Injuries always seemed to be a problem for Neal. He started nine or fewer games three seasons and just 37 games over his past four seasons. His 2010 campaign came to an end after eight games because of a shoulder injury.

Neal's retirement increases backup Dan Connolly's profile on the Patriots' roster and could keep Nick Kaczur around. Connolly started capably at left guard until Logan Mankins ended his contract standoff. Connolly then switched over to right guard for the injured Neal.

Boston Herald beat writer Ian R. Rapoport reported over the weekend that the Patriots approached Kaczur about a salary cut, but he refused.

Neal's decision was one of a few AFC East personnel moves Wednesday.

Rapoport also reported the Patriots extended a qualifying offer to restricted free agent running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

The New York Jets officially released defensive end Vernon Gholston and tight end Ben Hartsock.