FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots released Pro Bowl safety and team captain Lawyer Milloy on Tuesday, less than a week before his stunned former teammates will open the season.

"Has it ever been this quiet in here? I don't think it has," linebacker Tedy Bruschi, Milloy's rookie roommate in 1996, said in the locker room. "I think 'shocked' is the word. . . . You sort of just shake your head and ask yourself, 'Why?' "

Milloy, 29, started 106 consecutive games going back to his rookie year, when the Patriots won the AFC championship. He led the team in tackles in 2001, when New England won the Super Bowl.

But last year, he had no sacks, no forced fumbles and no interceptions, and 91 tackles was his lowest total since he became a full-time starter. Plus, he was due to cost the Patriots at least $5.25 million against the salary cap this year; the two sides had been trying to renegotiate his deal since April without success.

"Today is a day that nobody is happy about. This isn't the way we wanted this story to end," coach Bill Belichick said. "This is the hardest player that I have had to release. It was the hardest situation that I've had to go through like this, here or anywhere else."

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: The San Diego Chargers have mixed up their secondary once again, choosing rookie cornerback Sammy Davis as a starter for Sunday's opener in Kansas City.

Davis, the team's top draft pick, was selected over Tay Cody, a third-year pro.

"I think that it will be a lot of fun," Davis said. "It's a dream come true just to play a game in the NFL. And to play against a team like the Chiefs, with the No. 1 offense in the league last year, that would be big."

Cody was sidelined for the final two exhibition games, and Davis came on in those two contests. Davis, who had two interceptions this summer, will start opposite Quentin Jammer.

Jammer, the fifth overall pick last year, has four NFL starts.

HOUSTON TEXANS: The Houston Texans signed free-agent linebackers Steve Foley and Armegis Spearman on Tuesday and waived four other players.

Foley and Spearman both most recently played for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Foley has played in 54 games during five NFL seasons. He started for the Bengals in 45 games before spending the 2002 season on injured reserve for a dislocated right shoulder. Foley has 158 tackles, 9 1/2 sacks and five forced fumbles in his career.

Spearman started 11 games during his rookie season in 2000. He finished with 71 tackles for the Bengals. He was on injured reserve for a torn pectoral muscle during the 2001 season. For part of the 2002 season, he was on injured reserve for a high ankle sprain.

Waived Tuesday were linebackers Erik Flowers and Jimmy McClain, guard Ed Ta'amu and defensive tackle Keith Wright.

CHICAGO CUBS: The Chicago Bears on Tuesday signed veteran guard Corbin Lacina, making room for him on the roster by waiving tackle Bernard Robertson.

Lacina, a 6-foot-4, 302 pounder, was a starter for the Minnesota Vikings last season. He spent the offseason with the New England Patriots before being waived Sunday.

Lacina was drafted in the sixth round of the 1993 draft by Buffalo, where he played five seasons. He played one season with the Carolina Panthers before landing in Minnesota.

Robertson, who didn't play as a rookie, beat out Marc Colombo to start last season at left tackle, replacing Blake Brockermeyer, who departed in free agency.

DETROIT LIONS: Detroit Lions running back James Stewart will miss the season after separating his right shoulder in the final exhibition game.

Stewart was placed on injured reserve Tuesday by Detroit, which acquired Olandis Gary on the weekend to replace him. Detroit's leading rusher the past three seasons was hurt during Thursday's preseason game against Buffalo.

Coach Steve Mariucci said the next day he hoped Stewart would return by the sixth week of the season. Tuesday's move eliminated that possibility.

Stewart, 31, spent five seasons with Jacksonville before joining Detroit in 2000. The Lions' running game was devastated by the sudden retirement of Barry Sanders just before training camp in 1999.

ATLANTA FALCONS: The Atlanta Falcons claimed Woodrow Dantzler off waivers from the Dallas Cowboys Tuesday.

Fullback George Layne was waived to make room on the 53-man roster for Dantzler. Layne's departure makes rookie Justin Griffith, a fourth-round pick from Mississippi State, the starting fullback.

Signed as a rookie free agent in 2002, Dantzler was a former starting quarterback at Clemson that Dallas converted into a kickoff returner and running back.

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Dantzler spent 12 weeks on the Cowboys' practice squad last year before being signed to the active roster. In five games, he averaged 22.3 yards on 27 returns, including an 84-yard touchdown against San Francisco.

CAROLINA PANTHERS: The Carolina Panthers have signed linebacker Mike Caldwell and waived linebacker Marquis Smith, the team said Tuesday.

In 10 years with five teams, Caldwell he has played in 149 games with 49 starts and recorded 672 tackles, 14.5 sacks, eight interceptions, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He was released on Monday by Chicago.

Smith, who signed with the Panthers as a free agent Feb. 11, posted six tackles and one sack in four preseason games.

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