FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots signed quarterback Matt Gutierrez to their practice squad on Wednesday, choosing a youngster who knows their system over a more experienced player who would have to learn it.
Veterans Chris Simms and Tim Rattay met with team personnel but didn't work out or take physicals. Simms signed Wednesday with Tennessee.
Asked what the decision not to sign a veteran says about his confidence in Cassel, coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday, "I don't know what else it could say. That's it. He's our quarterback."
Gutierrez joined the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Idaho State before last season and completed the only pass he threw in the five games he played. He was released Aug. 30 on the final day for teams to reduce their rosters to the 53-player regular season limit but remained unsigned.
"Matt is on the practice squad so that changes the options right there," Belichick said. "We felt like that was the best thing we could do in terms of adding a third quarterback on our roster right now."
If he is activated for Sunday's game, he would be the No. 3 quarterback. But he'd get relatively few repetitions in practice with the Patriots offense.
"You have to give two quarterbacks some reps and the third doesn't get too many," Belichick said. "As the second, (O'Connell) will probably get a few more than he did last week."
"I don't mean to minimize that. He has done a great job of it," Belichick said, "But the real and most important thing is for him to get back, play his position and give us depth there."
Cassel started all four exhibition games and guided the team to just two field goals in 17 possessions while completing 19 of 34 passes for 165 yards and one interception. Gutierrez was 29-for-45 for 362 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. O'Connell, from San Diego State, went 15-for-32 for 140 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions and also ran for a touchdown.
The Patriots made two other practice squad moves, signing punter Tom Malone and releasing defensive back Mark Dillard.
Malone was on the team's practice squad late in 2006 then on its active roster from Jan. 23, 2007 to Aug. 22, 2007, but never played in a game for the Patriots.
Dillard signed on May 2 as a rookie free agent from Louisiana Tech, was released on the final cutdown date, then was signed the next day, Aug. 31, to the practice squad.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press