FOXBORO - The New England Patriots designated Asante Samuel as their franchise player yesterday in a move that would keep the cornerback with the team for at least one more season.
Samuel, 26, has played in 59 regular season and 11 playoff games with New England since being drafted in 2003, and would have been an unrestricted free agent if the Patriots hadn't designated him as their franchise player.
Without the tag, the Patriots would not be compensated if he signed with another team.
''Asante Samuel is an outstanding player who has been a consistent contributor for us for several years,'' said coach Bill Belichick in a statement issued by the team last night. ''We hope Asante remains a Patriot for many seasons to come.''
Samuel previously said he would like to stay in New England under the ''right conditions.'' He tied Champ Bailey for the NFL regular-season lead with 10 interceptions last season.
The veteran cornerback and product of Central Florida was selected by New England in the fourth round, 120th overall, in the 2003 NFL Draft.
Samuel's three career playoff interceptions returned for touchdowns are tied with the all-time NFL lead with former Oakland Raider Willie Brown.
BRADY TESTIFIES FOR WEIS: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady testified yesterday that he watched his mentor, Charlie Weis, move in and out of consciousness after the Notre Dame coach's gastric bypass surgery.
''At that moment I wasn't sure what was happening, if that was normal or not normal,'' Brady said in Suffolk Superior Court during Weis' medical malpractice lawsuit against two Massachusetts General surgeons.
''As it developed, I realized this was a very serious issue we were dealing with,'' he said.
Weis, the Patriots former offensive coordinator, claims in the lawsuit that physicians Charles Ferguson and Richard Hodin acted negligently by failing to recognize life-threatening internal bleeding and infection after the June 2002 surgery. He was in the hospital for more than a month and claims he still suffers from nerve damage in his feet.
Weis is seeking unspecified damages.
His attorneys rested their case later yesterday. Ferguson and Hodin have denied any wrongdoing.
Ferguson testified yesterday that he performed the surgery, and routine post-operative tests showed no problems.
''Weis had a little more incisional pain than normal,'' he said. ''He was breathing easy, his pulse was fine and his urine output was fine.''
That was on a Friday. Ferguson left for that weekend, leaving Hodin in charge of his patients. When he returned Monday morning, he said Weis was ''critically ill.''
Ferguson also told the court Weis insisted on accelerating the pre-op program, so he could be ready for the Patriots' summer camp. Weis had the surgery within two weeks of his first consultation.
''I was concerned he did not go through the normal six-week training session to teach you how to eat and what to eat after the operation,'' the doctor said.
Ferguson said after explaining the process, Weis had no follow-up questions. ''He told me he had done the research on this, and he didn't have any questions,'' Ferguson said.
Earlier in the day, Brady testified for less than half an hour before a packed courtroom. People without seats were forced to leave, and a crowd remained in the hall.
Weis had testified earlier in the week that Brady was the only member of the Patriots, besides the team doctor, he told about the surgery. Brady testified about the special relationship he had with Weis.
''He's always been an extremely intense person, intense coach. ... He expects the best out of everybody and teaches you to be accountable ... and that's kind of what I fed off.''