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MICHAEL HOLLEY

Talking himself in deeper

Each time I hear Ty Law engage in a new round of Patriots/Bill Belichick bashing, a simple thought comes to mind: Where are Ty's friends?

Where is that valuable friend that many of us have, the friend unafraid to tell us that we've talked too much and now it's time to shut up? Where is that colleague or family member with clout? For that matter, where is agent Carl Poston? Agents are paid, in part, to keep their clients away from public relations pileups such as the one Law is in right now.

Someone needs to say something, because this is getting ridiculous. Law is playing the role of the comedian who doesn't know how to say, "Thank you and good night," even though the chairs are on the tables and the patrons have left the building. If this were the Apollo Theater, Law would have been yanked from the stage a long time ago.

Seriously, can anyone remember a New England professional athlete leading a more disastrous clear-my-name media campaign? Roger Clemens, Mo Vaughn, and Antoine Walker had their share of outbursts here. But they didn't turn their issues into a weeklong complaint festival.

Law truly has talked himself into a maze. If you were to stack up his contradictions, you would have a towering addition to the Boston skyline.

At one point, I thought I understood what Law was saying. At one point, he indicated that he wanted a divorce simply because the love was gone after nine seasons. He hinted at legitimate (non-financial) problems that he's experienced in Foxborough. He didn't share all the details, but it was clear that some of those problems predated Belichick and others happened when the head coach took over four years ago.

Fine. We've all had disagreements with the boss, no matter what our tax bracket is, and Law was fed up with his employer. In breaking the original story of Law's discontent, the Globe's Michael Smith wrote an informative and balanced account of the cornerback's situation.

Law wasn't pleased with how arrogant, ungrateful, and whiny he sounded on these pages. So he took his case across America, where the national media threw him slow-pitch softballs. He went to USA Today, Sporting News Radio, and ESPN. At each stop, he said part of his mission was to show people that he's not the obnoxious caricature that he appeared to be here.

The Law I've known for nine years really is a smart and entertaining guy. But with each interview -- and keep in mind that these interviews are supposed to be favorable to him -- he sounds like a man who is irrational, desperate, and lacking perspective.

He called Belichick a liar because, in his eyes, the coach said he would negotiate with him and then backed off from his promise. That sounds dishonorable to anyone who doesn't have the facts.

The facts are that the Patriots stopped negotiating with Law after he asked for an outrageous, seven-year $63 million contract with a $20 million signing bonus. (It's funny, but those numbers never came up in the national interviews I watched and listened to.) In fact, Law is the one who originally asked for $15.6 million. The Patriots agreed to give him that, guaranteed, over the first two seasons of a four-year contract. He changed his request later, saying that he wanted the signing bonus to be $15.6 million. Then he said that the Patriots proposed to cut his pay, which he correctly projects to be about $17 million over the next two seasons.

This is where he starts spinning verbally. If it's about a 30-year-old player's security and not his money, why was he so insulted by a four-year deal that would pay him more than every cornerback except Champ Bailey? And if he is already planning to make $17 million over the next two years, doesn't that suggest that he will have to be here in 2005 to collect that money? Otherwise, the guaranteed $15.6 million is actually a better deal than the speculative $17 million.

Furthermore, Law should know by now that his situation is not unusual. He has at least a dozen teammates -- some well-paid and some not -- who have reason to be spooked by a lack of security. Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown, Adam Vinatieri, Joe Andruzzi, Matt Light, and Larry Izzo are some of the players who are entering the final year of their contracts.

Law can't even say that. He has two years left on his deal. He is an anomaly because he signed a seven-year agreement and, going into the sixth year of it, he has never had to relinquish a cent.

Even if his suspicion about being cut in 2005 is well-founded, shouldn't he be happy about it? He told Smith that he is as reliable as Coke or Microsoft. If that proves to be true in '04, his '05 stock will be as high as or higher than he perceives it to be now, regardless of his age. He will be free to flirt with as many Jets, Bills, Eagles, or Giants as he wants. And he will be in a market with more dollars and a higher salary cap.

Of course, all of that is speculation. Which makes Law so hard to listen to; lately, he speculates all the time.

No one said he's going to be cut. No one said the Patriots don't do long contracts in general -- maybe they just didn't want to do a long contract with him. No one said that he is the reincarnation of Lawyer Milloy. Unless I've missed a story or two, no one in his organization has commented on him at all.

He said Belichick is trying to portray him as greedy, but Belichick hasn't spoken. He said it's obvious now that the Patriots are going to release him in '05 because of his high cap number, but didn't we all guess last year that his '04 cap number would be too rich for the team?

We were wrong. The Patriots plan to go into the season with Law as their best corner. Apparently that's driving him crazy, because every other day he is hurling some accusation that prolongs his street fight. Right now, though, he's starting to look the way Jake LaMotta did after a bloody bout with Sugar Ray Robinson.

He has brought up the names of Rodney Harrison and Tyrone Poole, two players in their 30s, in an attempt to prove that long contracts can be done in Foxborough. Combine the total deals of both players and you're in the neighborhood of what Law was asking for as a signing bonus. He has called his coach a liar on national television. He has said he wouldn't mind joining Terrell Owens in Philadelphia.

On and on it goes.

I ask again: Where are his friends? Is anyone going to tell him to take a deep breath and chill out? Or is his next stop with Oprah or Larry King?

Michael Holley is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is holley@globe.com.

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