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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Veteran guard Brian Waters admitted Monday that he wasn't certain what kind of shape he is in having been without a job throughout the preseason.
The 11-year veteran and five-time Pro Bowler, officially signed Monday morning by the New England Patriots to add depth on the interior of the offensive line, chuckled and told reporters Monday afternoon to ask him again after his first practice. But Waters stressed one thing: If the Patriots need him to start at right guard on opening night in one week's time against the Miami Dolphins, he'll be ready.
"That's what I'm preparing for," said the 34-year-old Waters, who appeared in all but three games over the past nine seasons, starting every contest he appeared in. "I think that's what everybody here is preparing for. I don't know any other way then to prepare for it. If it happens, that's the coach's decision, but that's definitely what I'm preparing for."Patriots coach Bill Belichick isn't sure if Waters can be ready to play. "We haven't even had him on the field yet, so I'm not sure what that will be," he said. Working in a system with the Kansas City Chiefs that is similar to the Patriots' will help, but Belichick is taking a wait-and-see attittude. "I think that just kind of helps more with the evaluation as opposed to the whole learning curve," he said. "I mean, look, we brought a couple guys in here for a few of hours and played them last week, so sometimes you can do that; sometimes it takes a lot longer than that and they're still not ready to play, so each case is different. I don't know."
Despite spending his entire career with one team, Waters said Monday he's excited for the opportunity in New England.
"It was just about finding the situation that was best for me. This was a great organization, so why not? Their record speaks for itself," Waters said. "This is a football team that's a contender year in and year out. I had the opportunity to be around the staff and a number of players (during five Pro Bowl appearances) and had the opportunity to spend some time with (owner) Mr. (Robert) Kraft during the offseason (labor negotiations). It seemed like a perfect fit for me."
Traditionally a left guard, Waters said he wouldn't have any trouble switching to the right side. The Patriots have perennial Pro Bowler Logan Mankins entrenched in the left guard spot.
"(I have) a little bit (of experience there)," Waters said. "You have to flip everything in your mind, especially when you've done something for a long time. I don't think it'll take me too long to get it."Mankins thinks Waters will fit right in. "He's just a solid player, plays hard, cleans out the pocket, that's something we like to do here," he said. "Hitting people. He's a really good pass-blocker, good run blocker, very consistent ... he's been a good player for a long time."
His locker nestled between those of Mankins and Matt Light, Waters also spoke about inheriting Tedy Bruschi's No. 54 jersey number.
"I had the opportunity to meet (Bruschi) a few times, and play with him at the Pro Bowl," Waters said. "I do have a great appreciation for the number."Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork has gone against Waters in the past. "I'm glad he's on this side now," he said.
According to sources, Waters' deal is for two years and could be worth up to $5.5 million.
Chris Forsberg covers the Patriots and Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.