Willie weighs in on leadership void

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HOUSTON — That’s right … Houston. On my way to the West Coast for this weekend’s divisional playoffs (explaining a little lull in the action here), and I thought I’d pass along some things from ex-Patriot Willie McGinest from a conversation I had with the big linebacker the other day.

First of all, it’s worth noting that he’s not retired. He’s keeping himself in shape, and thinks he’s got one more year left, likely as a first- and second-down specialist. And in case you’re wondering, yes, he did speak with the Patriots earlier this year. Briefly, at least.

“I talked to them early on,” he told me, “But I guess they had what they needed.”

One thing I have to wonder here is that if Junior Seau was worth that flyer, and worth waiting for through the taping of his reality show … Wouldn’t McGinest — the old top cop in the Patriots locker room who certainly would’ve helped bring discipline to the team — have been worth a shot? Just a thought.

Anyway, McGinest did get a chance to check the Patriots-Ravens game out last weekend, and given the drain of leadership in New England, he wasn’t surprised that a scrappy underdog like Baltimore could come up and bite the team.

“When we were there, we had a foundation and a nucleus of guys that were competitive,” said McGinest. “And not competitive against the other team. Competitive against each other. I remember yelling over at (Richard) Seymour during the game, Ty (Warren) and me saying, ‘They ain’t running over here!’ And he and Vrabel yelling back, ‘They ain’t running here.’ And then (Vince) Wilfork saying, ‘They sure as heck ain’t running here.’

“There was so much pride in that group. I’d never say a Bill Belichick team was not prepared. I know those guys were prepared against Baltimore, they had to know what was coming, what they were getting. See, leadership’s not about talking, or saying what needs to happen. It’s when that light goes on, guys stepping out and making big plays consistently.


“Not a lot of those guys are there anymore. Some of the guys are — Vince and Ty understand it. But the other guys are young.”‘

And here, it seems, is the part that everyone seems to miss … It wasn’t about having a leader or two back then. It was that everyone had a stake in the leadership.

Want to know why it’s hard to replace? McGinest says it’s that, right there.

“Before, it was (Tedy) Bruschi, myself, Ted Johnson, Richard, Ted Johnson, Rodney (Harrison), Vrabel, Ty Law — We had them across the board,” McGinest said. “We competed against each other, that was the thing between us. What I’d say is that when critical things were happening, we’d say, ‘They are not scoring. They are not running, they are not consistently throwing.’ Did we give up rushing yards? Yeah. Did we give up some big plays? Sure. But we didn’t do it consistently.

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“My point is, it wasn’t one guy, it was everyone. We knew, no matter what the situation was, everyone would put all personal, selfish things elsewhere, and put everything into putting the team first. We all understood that through team success, there’d be a lot of individual success. We bought in, and it came to fruition.”