Brian Waters' jersey number given away by Patriots


The status of New England Patriots guard Brian Waters remains a mystery. But the Patriots gave a pretty strong clue over Twitter when they announced some uniform changes for the 2012 season.

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Rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower now will wear No. 54, the same number Waters wore in 2011. Waters, who made the Pro Bowl last year, remains under contract but doesn't count against the Patriots' roster. He's on the exempt/left team list and is strongly considering retirement.

There has been hope throughout the preseason that Waters eventually would show up and improve the team's guard situation. With less than a week before the season opener, it sure looks like the Patriots will be moving on without him.

Incidentally, 54 also was the number Tedy Bruschi wore in New England. He wanted future players to wear it. Hightower has been compared to Bruschi because of his instinctive play and smarts from the inside linebacker position.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.