The Patriots announced on Monday that they have released third-year running back Tyler Gaffney.
The former Stanford ball-carrier spent each of the last two seasons on injured reserve after suffering season-ending injuries before the start of the 2014 and 2015 regular seasons. Though Gaffney was a regular around the Patriots facility as he recovered, his physical ailments never allowed him to show his his capabilities on the field while in New England.
Gaffney was chosen by the Panthers in the sixth round of the 2014 draft, and he later made headlines with the way in which he ended up with the Patriots.
After enduring a season-ending knee injury while with Carolina, the Panthers front office opted to waive Gaffney to open up a spot on their 90-man roster. Because he was injured, the assumption was he would clear waivers and be eligible to land on the Panthers injured reserve list.
Instead, the Patriots claimed Gaffney. The hope was that by 2015 he may be able to compete for a role in the Patriots backfield.
"Tyler had a real good year last year," Belichick said at the time. "Went to Stanford and then was in baseball for a year and had a big year last year. I think he’s a good all-around back that we want to work with. He was available, so we’ll see how it plays out here."
The Giants very publicly expressed their discouragement after the Patriots made a similar move back in 2012, claiming injured tight end Jake Ballard back in 2012. Ballard had suffered a season-ending injury and was waived, but the Giants hoped to have him land on their injured reserve list.
"Discouraged is a minor description," Coughlin told reporters after Ballard was claimed. "Very disappointing. I am not going to have a lot to say about that one, just the fact that we are disappointed. We are very disappointed."
It was later suggested to Belichick that the Patriots may have broken an "unwritten" rule that teams should be able to retain injured players after they're waived during training camp.
"If a player's on waivers, he's on waivers," Belichick replied. "Ours or anybody else's. I don't know what 'unwrittens' you're talking about. Look, anytime you put a player on waivers, you know there's 31 teams that can take him. We all know that. There's no secrets about that."
The Panthers, while disappointed in losing Gaffney, pointed out that what the Patriots had done was perfectly legal.
"This was a legitimate, season-ending injury," Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman told the Charlotte Observer. "We have Jonathan Stewart, who’s not practicing, and we needed the roster spot. Plain and simple . . . This is a very competitive business, and people are going to try to improve their team within the rules. And this is within the rules.”
After all that, Gaffney never played a game in New England.
With Dion Lewis, James White, Brandon Bolden, Donald Brown and Joey Iosefa as the remaining running backs on the Patriots, we've projected it as one of the positions the team may target in this year's draft.