- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The New England Patriots have consistently made roster moves the day before games this season. Now, in a tough blow for receiver Tiquan Underwood, they've made one the night before the Super Bowl.
The team released Underwood on Saturday, and promoted defensive lineman Alex Silvestro off the practice squad. The move was not discipline-based, but a pure football decision based on needs specific to the Super Bowl XLVI game plan, according to a source.
On his Twitter account, the 24-year-old Underwood wrote, "Good Luck To The New England Organization, The Coaches, & All My Teammates. #PatsNation."
Underwood declined an interview request but sent ESPN's Ed Werder a text that said: "I don't want to be a distraction to the game or the New England Patriots.....i will say this, The New England Patriots are a GREAT Organization. I wish them nothing but the best today. This season has been dedicated to Myra Kraft (MHK) Mr Kraft's wife....w/ that being said i hope they pull out the victory in honor of her & because the coaches & players have worked so hard this season for the opportunity to play in Super Bowl 46. Go Pats!!!! #PatsNation"
Underwood will be entitled to $88,000 if New England wins this game and $44,000 if New England loses. The NFL's collective bargaining has a clause that says any player active for a total of eight games in the regular season and postseason is entitled to a full share of the Super Bowl earnings. Underwood just made the cut, as he was active for eight games. He would also get a ring if the Patriots win.
With Underwood out, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, who played one snap vs. the Broncos in the divisional round and was inactive in the AFC Championship Game, will likely be active for Super Bowl XLVI, a source told ESPN's Werder. Ochocinco had a career-low 15 catches in his first season with the Patriots and has never played in the Super Bowl.
A third-year receiver, Underwood played in eight games for the team: six in the regular season, two in the playoffs. He totaled 97 snaps (including penalties) and his role varied on a weekly basis, as either the team's third, fourth or fifth receiver. Because the Patriots run more than 80 percent of their plays with two or more tight ends on the field, the value of a third, fourth or fifth receiver is lessened.
Underwood, who finished with three catches for 30 yards, is not a primary contributor on special teams, which likely factored in to the decision as well. The Patriots would be open to Underwood's return to the team in 2012 if he's interested, according to a source.
Silvestro, on the other hand, could help on the punt return and kickoff return units. Injured tight end Rob Gronkowski plays on the wedge on the kickoff return unit and it's possible the Patriots might want to lessen his load by having Silvestro step in.
Silvestro, a rookie from Rutgers who played in one game this season (11 snaps vs. Miami on Dec. 24), could also add depth as part of a defensive line rotation.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Information from ESPN NFL reporter Ed Werder, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, ESPNBoston.com's Mike Rodak and The Associated Press was used in this report.
1dDoug Clawson, ESPN Stats & Information