Sauerbrun's return to Patriots challenged

Jason Cole
Yahoo! Sports

The NFL Players Association is appealing the New England Patriots' ability to match a contract offer made by the Denver Broncos to punter Todd Sauerbrun. The Patriots told agent David Canter that they will match a one-year contract worth up to $1.4 million with incentives for the former Pro Bowl punter.

Sauerbrun, who spent the 2005 campaign with Denver, prefers to play for the Broncos. Part of the reason is that the Patriots still have veteran punter Josh Miller, who missed the end of last season with a shoulder injury, and two younger punters on the roster already. That makes Sauerbrun's job status much more questionable.

NFLPA attorney Richard Berthelsen said Wednesday that when the Patriots signed Sauerbrun for the final two weeks of the '06 season and for the playoffs, the team wrote into the deal a provision allowing them to match a contract offer. However, it's the union's contention that the provision was not done correctly and that should allow Sauerbrun to leave.

"There's a special form that the Patriots are required to have filled out under the collective bargaining agreement in order to have the right to match," Berthelsen said. "That form was not used and therefore we believe allows the player to go to Denver."

Attempts to reach the Patriots about the matter were unsuccessful.

The hearing on the matter will be Tuesday before special master Stephen Burbank at the Harvard Law School, Berthelsen said.

Berthelsen said he was not concerned about any bias by Burbank being in the Boston area because Burbank is a visiting professor at the school.

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