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Patriots’ roster hits 90 with reported return of running back Tyler Gaffney

Tyler Gaffney earned two Super Bowl rings with New England.

New England Patriots v Carolina Panthers Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The 90-man roster reached capacity for the New England Patriots on Thursday. And it did so with a familiar face.

The Patriots re-signed running back Tyler Gaffney heading into voluntary organized team activities, as first reported by NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.

Gaffney, 30, earned a pair of Super Bowl rings during his previous stay in New England after being waived by the Carolina Panthers with the injury designation following a torn lateral meniscus in the summer of 2014. The former sixth-round draft choice out of Stanford spent his first, second and part of his third season on injured reserve before splitting time between the practice squad and active roster.

“Tyler — he’s a smart guy, very team-oriented,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of Gaffney’s role on the scout team late in the 2016 campaign. “If you ask him to do something, he’s going to give you a great look. There’s nobody that takes more punches than he does. He must get punched in the stomach 10 times a day. The defense is trying to take the ball out. That’s his role. That’s his job. But they’re slapping at the ball, they’re pulling at it, they’re trying to punch it. Half the time they miss. He does a great job.”

The Patriots waived Gaffney in 2017. A preseason stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars followed before the second-team All-Pac 12 selection announced his retirement from the NFL.

Gaffney, who played in the minor leagues while at Stanford, returned to the baseball outfield for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Bradenton Marauders and Altoona Curve affiliates. Through 89 games, he posted a .244 batting average to go with 36 RBI and six home runs.

Last December, Gaffney restarted his football career as a member of the San Francisco 49ers’ practice squad. He was released one week into January.

The 6-foot, 220-pound running back now reconvenes with New England on a depth chart that includes Damien Harris, Sony Michel, James White, Brandon Bolden, J.J. Taylor and fourth-round draft pick Rhamondre Stevenson from Oklahoma, who signed his rookie contract this week.

The Patriots also agreed to terms with veteran safety Adrian Colbert on Thursday.

OTA sessions begin in Foxborough on May 24.