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The punting-poor New England Patriots have signed freeagent Rich...

FOXBORO, Mass. -- The punting-poor New England Patriots have signed freeagent Rich Camarillo and special teams coach Gino Cappelletti says the search for a reliable punter is over.

The signing was announced Monday, but Camarillo, a rookie who kicked for PAC-10 champion Washington last year, won't officially join the team until Tuesday after clearing 24-hour procedural waivers.

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Camarillo, who averaged 40.7 yards per kick at Washington, was cut earlier this year by New England during training camp.

'I believe this kid is going to solve our problems. You'll see some rockets from him,' said Cappelletti. 'There's no question there was tough conditions Sunday but how a guy performs under tough conditions tells you something. Consistency is the standard. That's why it's so important to get a guy who can develop his art.'

Camarillo replaces Ken Hartley, who lasted two games after taking over for incumbent Mike Hubach. Hartley totaled 50 yards in two kicks in New England's 38-10 victory Sunday over the Houston Oilers.

'This isn't a meal ticket, just breakfast,' cautioned coach Ron Erhardt. 'We have a couple others in mind if he (Camarillo) doesn't do it. If Hartley hadn't punted Sunday, he'd probably stayed on another week.'

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Camarillo may not be the only new face in New England's lineup next week when the Patriots visit the Washington Redskins. Erhardt said he would be looking at some defensive backs to take the place of the ailing Mike Haynes. Haynes suffered a collapsed lung before Sunday's game and will miss the next two or three games.

'Nobody knows when he'll be back. It's uncommon (the collapsed lung), but it's not unheard of among young men,' said trainer Tom Healion.

Haynes is expected to remain at Carney Hospital in Boston through the week and his condition remains excellent.

Erhardt credited both units for their play in Sunday's convincing rout of Houston, the Pats' first triumph over the Oilers since 1973. Erhardt noted New England continually had excellent field position and praised the defense, which held Earl Campbell to 86 yards.

'The front seven defensively played their best game of the year. The defensive backs did a good job. I guess we're the first team that held him (Campbell) at bay (since Houston adopted the I-formation three games ago).

'Offensively, we ran the ball pretty decent against a good, defensive team,' the coach continued. 'We didn't throw as much asin the past because we didn't have to. The whole key to our game Sunday was great preparation and two very physical practices that set the tone and carried over into the game.'

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Fullback Sam Cunningham, who missed the last two games with a hamstring pull, also is expected to be out Sunday, Erhardt said.

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