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Sailing away: Patriots RB Kettani leaves team for naval duty

  • By Marc Sessler NFL.com
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When New England's players gather for practice Friday morning in advance of their clash with the New York Jets, they'll be down one true Patriot.

Practice-squad running back and U.S. Naval reserve Eric Kettani was ordered back to his ship in Jacksonville after his request for leave was denied, the Boston Herald reported Thursday.

Kettani, who played football at the U.S. Naval Academy, is scheduled to report to duty Friday morning, ending his brief run with the team.

"I love my country and I'm happy to serve it, but I'm also happy to be a New England Patriot," Kettani told ESPN.com on Thursday. "I think some of (my teammates) were shocked. Coach (Bill) Belichick said he'd help me out in any way possible."

Kettani originally signed with the Patriots as a rookie free agent in May 2009 before being placed on the reserve military list in July 2009. He was activated from the reserve military list in July 2011.

Kettani tweeted a bittersweet farewell to the team Thursday night: "Just left Patriot Place for maybe the last time," he wrote, along with a photo of his locker, showing his naval cap next to a Patriots throwback helmet (which the team will wear against the Jets).

The Navy issued the following letter denying Kettani's request for leave:

"As our nation is at war, it is important to ensure we maintain our commitment to the nation's defense. As such, a release from active duty would be inconsistent with that effort.

"I appreciate your Patriotism and service to our nation and encourage you to pursue your goal to play professional football after completion of your service in the Navy."

The Patriots didn't waste time in moving on, announcing Friday that rookie defensive back Josh Victorian was re-signed to the practice squad to replace Kettani.

On Friday afternoon, Kettani tweeted: "Just reported on the USS Klakring and thank you everyone for your encouraging thoughts and support. Lets go #Patriots beat the #Jets!"

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