A third-round choice in 2008, O'Connell was the leading candidate to be Tom Brady's backup this season after the departure of Matt Cassel. The timing of the release was particularly surprising considering Brady's right shoulder injury Friday night against the Redskins.
Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth landed on Brady after he released a pass. Though it did not appear Brady separated the shoulder, the possibility of doing damage to the shoulder was possible considering how Haynesworth landed on him. Sources, however, have indicated the shoulder injury might not be too bad, though the Patriots aren't providing information about the right shoulder except to say that is it sore.
A source close to the team told the Boston Globe on Sunday that "there is no need for hysteria'' when it comes to Brady's shoulder and the quarterback will be fine.
O'Connell's release means that the three quarterbacks being groomed behind Brady the past couple of years are gone -- Cassel, O'Connell and Matt Gutierrez. Cassel and Gutierrez both landed in Kansas City so it's not out of the question for the Chiefs and the Broncos to put in waiver claims on O'Connell. Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli was involved in drafting O'Connell last year. Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels coached him in New England last season.
O'Connell is a 6-foot-5, 225-pound draft choice from San Diego State. He was the 94th pick in the 2008 draft.
Senior writer John Clayton covers the NFL for ESPN.com.