THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

Proven winner will be missed

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / September 7, 2009

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Just when we were beginning to think Bill Belichick was getting all sentimental, he reminds us that he is evermore a bloodless tactician - interested only in what is good for the future of his football team.

And so Richard Seymour is gone. In a New England Minute. Dispatched to Oakland, which is only a pooch punt from Alcatraz.

Thanks for the three Super Bowl rings and the five Pro Bowls, big fella. Now take a hike and see how you like things at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

On paper, this makes a lot of sense. For the future. Seymour makes big dough ($3.685 million) and is in the final year of his contract. The Patriots figured they wouldn’t be able to sign him after this season. He turns 30 next month and his best speed rushing is behind him. The Patriots have some depth in their defensive line and are looking to score a top-10 draftee in 2011. The trade presupposes that the Raiders are going to stink for another couple of years, a safe bet with calcified Al Davis at the helm. There’s also a chance that there will be a rookie salary cap by 2011 - which makes a top pick far more attractive to the ever-fiscally responsible Patriots.

Nonetheless, it’s a shocker. More shocking than trading Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs. More shocking that the retirements of Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi. Patriots fans, ever worshiping at the altar of Hoodie, are stuck with thousands of XXXL No. 93 jerseys. And New England’s pass rush is weakened. The defense is dented. The 2009 season starts a week from tonight and the Patriots just got worse. For this year.

Last week Belichick got jammed up when talking about Bruschi. For a minute we thought Flatline Bill might start blubbering at the podium. It was his Oprah moment. He called Bruschi a “perfect player.’’

Now this. No tears. No heart-wrenching news conference. No gold watch. Just a piece of paper stating that the coach feels Seymour has been “one of our premier players for nearly a decade . . . ’’

Indeed. Seymour came to Foxborough in 2001, the year everything changed. He was there for all of it: New Orleans. Houston. Jacksonville. 18-0. Following Bruschi out the door, he leaves Tom Brady, Kevin Faulk, Matt Light, and Stephen Neal as a Club of Four. The rest of the three-ring guys are gone. In the last year Patriots fans have said goodbye to Vrabel, Larry Izzo, Lonie Paxton, Troy Brown, and Bruschi. Now Brady, Faulk, Light, and Neal stand alone. They are the only active Patriots players who can talk about Walt Coleman and the Tuck Game. They’re the only guys who dressed in the old Foxboro Stadium locker room.

The Patriots certainly don’t let any turf grow under their cleats. If the 1980s Celtics had been managed by Belichick you can be pretty sure Kevin McHale would have been traded. Maybe Robert Parish, too. The Big Three would not have gotten old and broken down on Coach Bill’s watch.

Football is strictly business in the Land of Bill. We forgot that for a few hours when Bruschi retired, but perhaps we should have looked a little deeper into the Tedy-fest. Is there any doubt that Bruschi retired because he was told he was going to be cut? Bruschi’s “decision’’ to step down enabled all parties to save facemask. The Patriots didn’t come across as thankless meanies, and the classy Bruschi got to leave on his own terms - looking downright senatorial (sorry, Curt).

Naturally, most fans love yesterday’s trade. More than a slogan, “In Bill We Trust’’ is a way of life for those who follow the Flying Elvises. Only Belichick could deal a 29-year-old three-time champ/five-time Pro Bowler with an impeccable reputation, get a draft pick in return, and be madly applauded by season ticket-holders. Robert and Jonathan Kraft’s viselike grip on the NFL media (could we get a few more Patriot infomercials disguised as news on Channel 4 and sports radio?) makes it hard to find objective opinion on the team, but the trade is guaranteed to be praised because it was made by Belichick. Woe is the pundit who questions any Coach Bill decision and, you have to admit, his track record is pretty good.

But the Patriots without Seymour are not better than the Patriots with Seymour. There’s no way this trade makes them a better team in 2009. It could be a great deal down the road, but ours is a “win now’’ town and there’s risk in dealing a Pro Bowler one week before the opener of a much-anticipated season.

So save some of your applause for Richard Seymour, you Belichick toadies. Seymour was a winner and a class act in our town for eight seasons, and the 2009 Patriots are going to miss him.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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