Missing all of training camp and the preseason, Waters' return looks like a long shot upon first glance. However, using a detective's eye, one can gather substantive evidence that suggests the Pro Bowl guard will be returning to the club for the 2012 season.
Exhibit A: His Locker Remains
During a live chat earlier this week, Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston shared one reason why he thinks Waters could possibly be returning to the Patriots this season, writing "On Waters, I don't think it's safe to say anything, but I do think it's notable that he still has a locker at the stadium."
Tom E. Curran of CSN New England reinforced this observation with a tweet earlier today:
Exhibit B: Excused Absences from Mandatory Minicamp and Training Camp
After missing mandatory minicamp, Bill Belichick said that Waters was "excused for personal reasons," and when Waters didn't show up for training camp either, Belichick explained that the situation was "basically the same as it was in minicamp” (per Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe).
If there were no expectations for Waters to return, why not just cut ties with the veteran guard? Why bother with an excused absence and excuse for the media?
This suggests that there is some kind of arrangement between Belichick and Waters.
Exhibit C: No Veteran Free Agent Additions
It's no secret that New England's offensive line struggled this preseason.
Even with seasoned guards like Jake Scott available in free agency, the team opted not to bring in veteran help, instead electing to bring in a plethora of undrafted rookie free agents like Dustin Waldron and Darrion Weems, to name a few.
For a pass-first team that is built around keeping their future Hall of Fame quarterback upright, not bringing in help for an unreliable offensive line seems irresponsible to say the least.
Unless of course the coaching staff believed the line would improve with an in-house addition (cough, Brian Waters, cough).
With the evidence of Waters' return abundant on the brink of New England's Sept. 9th season opener in Tennessee, all fans can do is sit and wait until the six-time Pro Bowl guard decides to walk through the doors at Gillette Stadium.