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Veteran safety Sanders shocked by release from Patriots

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Power outages from Tropical Storm Irene forced the New England Patriots out of their home stadium for practice Monday. When they return, safety James Sanders won't be with them.

The Patriots released the six-year veteran, who was tied for second on the team with three interceptions last season. He was due to make a base salary of $2.8 million in 2011.

"It was a shock," Sanders told ESPN on Monday. "It wasn't one of the things I was expecting to hear today. It didn't cross my mind."

Sanders had missed time this summer with a hamstring issue, but he said he's back to full health. He played in his first preseason game Saturday night, starting alongside Brandon Meriweather.

"I wish I would have had a fair shot this camp. I came in hurt and obviously that weighed into it," Sanders said. "But stuff happens, and you have to move on."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the decision to cut ties with the safety wasn't easy.

"Tough release there with James Sanders," Belichick said in a conference call. "James has been a good guy to have on this team. A hardworking kid. ... He's been a really solid team player for us, but we just, part of the move, needed to release people."

Belichick also addressed the move during a radio appearance on WEEI-AM.

"It is always tough when you have to release players, especially guys that have played for you and won for you," Belichick said. "James certainly has done a lot of that, he has played a lot of good football here. He has been a solid team player, teammate and member of the team. Ultimately we have to make the decision we feel is best for our team."

Also Monday, the Patriots signed wide receiver Tiquan Underwood and safety Ross Ventrone and released 10 other players: receivers Darnell Jenkins and Tyree Barnes, kicker Chris Koepplin, fullback Eric Kettani, long snapper Matt Katula, offensive lineman Mark Wetterer, tight end Garrett Mills, defensive backs Jonathan Wilhite and Malcolm Williams and defensive linemen Clay Nurse and Kade Weston.

Underwood appeared in 13 games over two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars before he was released Saturday. Last season, he caught eight passes for 111 yards and returned 24 kicks for 561 yards.

Ventrone spent most of last season on the Patriots' practice squad. He went to camp with the team this year but was released Aug. 10.

Sanders, a fourth-round draft pick from Fresno State in 2005, has totaled 300 tackles, eight interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in his career. He also has played in 10 playoff games, starting seven.

"Not a lot of negatives with James," Belichick said. "But we have to select the players that we feel like are best for our team."

NFL teams need to get down to 80-man rosters by Tuesday and to 53 by the season opener. The Patriots have one preseason game left, at home Thursday night against the New York Giants, before the Sept. 12 season opener against the Miami Dolphins.

Belichick said he didn't have injury updates on Wes Welker (neck) and Dan Connolly (ankle), who left Saturday's 34-10 loss to the Detroit Lions.

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Irene killed five in New England even as it was downgraded from a hurricane that devastated North Carolina and points south. As a tropical storm, it snarled transportation while causing widespread flooding and power outages that left more than 400,000 people without power in Massachusetts alone Monday.

The Patriots were among them.

Patriots spokesman Stacey James said the power at Gillette Stadium went out Sunday morning and hadn't been fully restored early Monday night. So, the team had a walkthrough and meetings off-site.

James wouldn't divulge the location.

"We're working outside of the stadium today, but we should be back there in a little while, and it sounds like we'll be back to normal," Belichick said. "We weathered the storm, and we should get back hopefully into a normal flow of things here tomorrow."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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