"We played him last year in Cincinnati and I did some work on him going into that game," Belichick said of O'Neal. "He is a very athletic corner, good ball skills, pretty big guy that goes up and plays a lot of press coverage."
The Patriots keep tabs on other teams' preseason rosters and usually are ready to pick up a player they like once he gets on the waiver wire.
"I can't think of anybody that was on that wire that we kind of hadn't talked about as a possibility," Belichick said.
The Patriots needed help at cornerback after releasing Bryant before Saturday's 4 p.m. deadline for teams to reduce their rosters to the 53-player regular-season limit. That left them with just four cornerbacks, including rookies Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite.
At some point, O'Neal could join Ellis Hobbs as the two starting cornerbacks. For a while, it seemed Bryant would have that role.
"It is a hard decision to release any player really," said Belichick, without referring specifically to Bryant, a nine-year veteran. "There were many more (players) deserving to be kept that could play for us, that could have helped us."
O'Neal spent the past four seasons with Cincinnati after playing his first four with Denver. He had 31 interceptions for three touchdowns in 116 games, including 75 starts. He also scored one touchdown on a kickoff return and two on punt returns.
"I remember, very well," Brady said. "He made a diving catch that was pretty awesome. You don't want to mess around with him that much."
"I played with him over at the Pro Bowl before and I've been knowing him for a long time," safety Rodney Harrison said. He's a "tremendous player, very athletic guy, can do a lot of things and we're definitely excited about adding a guy like that."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press