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Patriots remove Brian Waters' nameplate from locker

Guard Brian Waters hasn't retired yet, but the New England Patriots slowly are removing any signs of his presence in New England. We mean this quite literally.

ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss points out that the team has removed Waters' nameplate from his locker. They gave away Waters' jersey number earlier in the week to Dont'a Hightower.

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The nameplate removal wasn't recorded dramatically like in a "Hard Knocks" episode, but it's telling that it happened now. The Patriots are moving on, even if they don't need to close the door to Waters returning during the season.

The Pro Bowl player's absence might not just be about retirement. CSNNE.com's Tom Curran passed along whispers this week that Waters might want to play closer to his home in Texas, if he was going to play at all.

It's unclear if Waters even does want to play. He was ambivalent about a return immediately after the team's Super Bowl loss. Waters probably doesn't want to do it for $1.4 million in New England. Meanwhile, the Patriots own his contractual rights and don't have any interest in trading him to another AFC team unless they got some unlikely huge offer.

This story could continue through the season, even with Waters' nameplate removed. It's always possible Waters could pull a Roger Clemens and return midway through the season.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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