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Murrell surprised with Pats return

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the biggest challenges for an unemployed football player is staying in shape, and remaining upbeat, while waiting for the phone to ring with the next opportunity.

That's the situation that Marques Murrell was in after the Patriots released him Sept. 13, as the club needed to create a roster spot with offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka returning from a one-game suspension.

The 25-year-old Murrell had been with the team in training camp and was on the field for seven plays in the season-opening win over the Bengals. Then he lost his job and no other team offered him an opportunity. He didn't have a single workout.

So one can imagine Murrell's surprise when the Patriots called this week and told him they were interested in bringing him back. It was a reward for his discipline of staying in shape, as he woke up each morning and trained as if he was on a team, which included watching film and going over plays.

"I watched a lot of guys, I watched the wire a lot, and I saw guys getting worked out left and right, it was kind of frustrating after a while," Murrell said Thursday in the team's locker room. "Me and my agent, we talk often, and he said 'Just be ready, be professional about it.' That's all I could do. I tried not to let it bring me down."

Murrell had moved his family to Charlotte during the season, but now he's happily relocated to New England.

With outside linebackers Tully Banta-Cain (groin), Jermaine Cunningham (calf) and Eric Moore (unknown) banged up, he adds depth entering the playoffs.