Moss, others sent home by Patriots
FOXBOROUGH - Even with snow-covered roads, yesterday wasn’t the day for members of the Patriots to be late for a team meeting.
Randy Moss, Adalius Thomas, Gary Guyton, and Derrick Burgess all were tardy for the 8 a.m. meeting, and when they did arrive they were told to go home. They did not practice as the Patriots prepare for Sunday’s game against Carolina.
Coach Bill Belichick declined to comment on the matter, saying, “Anything that happens with discipline on the team stays between me and the players on the team.’’
After losing their third game in four weeks, the Patriots are clinging to a one-game lead in the AFC East. Yesterday was the first day for players to return to the field after last Sunday’s loss in Miami, and even if weather conditions were not ideal, it would be difficult to accept that as an excuse considering quarterback Tom Brady was at the stadium less than 24 hours after the birth of his son Tuesday.
Leadership has been a question surrounding the Patriots, with Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison retired and Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel traded. Following last Sunday’s loss, Brady said he and his teammates need to find ways to close out games and improve in all aspects.
“I think that’s the most important thing and being mentally tough to overcome adversity,’’ he said. “And when things don’t go your way, you’ve got to fight back. That’s a challenge for all of us. At times I think we do, and other times I don’t think we fight very hard.’’
Yesterday, Brady expanded on his comments, saying he doesn’t doubt the team’s energy on game day.
“It’s not like we think we’re not fighting out there in the game,’’ Brady said. “I think what Coach tells us and what I was alluding to was probably more of just the other six days of the week. We’ve got to make the commitment to each other. And if it’s Monday and it’s Tuesday and Coach wants us to come in on Monday and work or stay for a 2 1/2-hour practice on Wednesday and Thursday, then with no bitching and complaining, just [do] the job.
“I think at times we all feel a little bit sorry for ourselves and you’re beat up and you’re tired and you’re sore and it’s the end of the year and you go, ‘Why is [Belichick] doing this?’ But in the end, you’re either gaining ground on a team or you’re losing ground, and I always prefer to be gaining ground and getting ahead and staying ahead over the course of the week through walk-throughs, through meetings, through post-practice film, through your film study on Tuesday, through all of the treatment that you’ve got to do.’’
Brady’s comments were accepted by his teammates.
“We all feel the same way,’’ said linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. “There’s no surprise in that obviously we know we’re a good team and we feel that we should be playing better, so I’m not shocked at him making those comments. I would have said the same thing. It’s a collective thing that we’re all feeling and experiencing.’’
Said running back Sammy Morris, “Well, I think we all know that or have felt it. I think with him saying it just puts a little bit more emphasis on it. But I actually think that we’re all on the same page and realize that we have a lot of things to correct and fortify.’’
The Patriots have four games left, and Brady said they are fortunate to control their postseason chances.
“I mean, there’s nothing figured out at this point,’’ he said. “What we need to do is win this week. Two straight losses, that’s been tough for all of us, so we have to really put it all on the line this week. That’s why we’ve been working for a long time for this opportunity, and there are some teams in the league that would die for this opportunity - to be in first place with four games left. So we’ve got to use that as confidence for us and still go out there and understand that we’ve got to play our best football.’’
Four of the Patriots’ five losses have been by 7 points or fewer, and poor second-half performances have allowed opponents to pull out wins. When faced with adversity, Banta-Cain said the team has struggled to respond.
“Hopefully, that’s something that raises eyebrows on everybody and opens everybody’s eyes to be more alert and not to let that happen,’’ he said.
Brady is being a vocal captain, and his teammates are listening.
“Even more guys are coming in, watching more film,’’ Banta-Cain said. “We’ll see what we can do in practice [yesterday], and I think everyone’s got that game face on right now. They’re not waiting till Sunday to put it on. I think Tom is a guy we definitely look to for that type of leadership, and I’m pretty sure everybody will respond to it.’’
Finishing the season on a strong note has to begin now, according to Brady.
“When you’re 7-5, you’re obviously not doing everything right, so what you are doing, if you continue to do it, you’re going to get a lot of the same, which is pretty average,’’ Brady said. “I always think there’s only one way to do it, which is to put more into it and to put everything into it and I think that’s the commitment that the leadership makes to the team and younger guys - they buy in, too. And everybody collectively comes together to put whatever you have left into it.’’
Albert Breer of the Globe staff contributed to this report.