WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 08: Kansas City Chiefs player Brian Waters leaves negotiations at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service building March 8, 2011 in Washington, DC. Representatives from the National Football League (NFL) and National Football League Players' Association (NFLPA) continue to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement between players and owners. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

New England Patriots Give Brian Waters Surprising Amount Of Flexibility

Waters is missing-in-action for the Patriots, which could signal a quick end to his tenure in New England.

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New England Patriots Give Brian Waters Surprising Amount Of Flexibility

The New England Patriots tend to move on from anyone who does not stick to the plan or becomes a distraction. Even the most productive veteran players have found themselves cut or traded when their time with the franchise was deemed over. Yet somehow Brian Waters, the Pro Bowl guard and potential Hall of Famer, continues to enjoy a certain amount of flexibility and tolerance from the team.

Waters has yet to report to the team this offseason, but rather than moving on without him and leaving it completely behind them, Pats owner Bob Kraft recently spoke about his hopes to have Waters join the team.

"I've learned, I don't sit in judgment of anyone until I find myself walking in their shoes. I don't know what's going on in his private life, what the different concerns are," Kraft said. "Surely, we would have like to have had him. I'm still not giving up hope that maybe he still wants to come back. But, you know, it's a rigorous, strenuous ... he came in last year right before the start of the season and performed beautifully. We'll see what happens."

Waters has been absent due to familial concerns of being away from his wife and five children, who remain in Texas throughout the year. Waters made the Pro Bowl last season in his first year with the Patriots and enjoyed a Super Bowl run with the team. The longtime Chiefs star is undecided on whether or not he will play in 2012.

For more on the Kansas City Chiefs, check out Arrowhead Pride. For more on the New England Patriots, visit Pats Pulpit. For all of your NFL needs, stay tuned to SB Nation's dedicated NFL hub.

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Brian Waters' Time In New England Likely Over After Uniform, Locker Room Changes

Brian Waters has not officially been released by the New England Patriots. However if the storied offensive lineman returns to the 2011 AFC champions, it would be a big surprise after the developments of the past few days.

Waters’ uniform number was given to rookie linebacker Dont’a Hightower and now it’s being reported by ESPN’s Mike Reiss that his locker nameplate has been removed. Those are not signs of a player who is planning to return.

It’s unclear at this point whether or not Waters plans on playing for the Patriots or any NFL team in 2012. The lineman definitely proved he has the ability to play at a high level given the Pro Bowl appearance last season for the Patriots — a season that included a first-time Super Bowl run and 19 starts for the potential Hall of Fame candidate.

If Waters decided to retire, some sort of movement back to the Chiefs, the franchise that Waters spent the majority of his career, could be in the cards. Or perhaps the team could even sign him to play a final season back in Kansas City to help bolster the line. After all, the only depth the team has at any offensive line position are the two rookie draft picks of Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson.

Check out more info on the Patriots at Pats Pulpit.

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