THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

A Cartoon Network special

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / December 11, 2009

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Boston sports lore is peppered with cartoon characters. The Red Sox had Bob “Beetle’’ Bailey taking strike three and Bill Buckner playing Charlie Brown with the ball skipping between his black high-tops. The Celtics have Tommy Heinsohn playing Fred Flintstone on Comcast SportsNet New England. The Patriots once featured Bill Parcells as Charlie the Tuna.

Now the Patriots have Adalius Thomas as George Jetson.

Along with three other players, Thomas was late for work at Gillette Wednesday morning. Bill Belichick/Mr. Spacely sent them home.

Yesterday, Thomas said he got stuck in traffic because of the snow.

“There’s one thing about Mother Nature - you can’t control that,’’ Thomas said. “You can’t run people over getting to work. There’s nothing to apolo gize about. I wasn’t trying to be late.

“You leave home, there are people there, cars sitting in the road, you’re sitting there, what are you gonna do? It’s not the Jetsons. I can’t jump up and fly.’’

Beautiful. Wonder if AD had his dog, Astro, riding shotgun.

I can imagine Astro taking a look at the snowy backup on Route 1 and saying, “Ruh-roh.’’

A talk-show caller suggested Bob Kraft build a ramp from Adalius’s house to the stadium - something to go with the bogus bridge the Krafts are trying to wring out of the federal stimulus package.

But seriously, folks, the Carolina Panthers are here in a couple of days and there’s a bad moon rising over the House of Belichick.

Sure, the Patriots are still in great shape to make the playoffs. They have a one-game lead in the division and four tomato cans lined up for the final month (OK, technically Jacksonville could be a playoff team). They have yet to lose a home game, and if they played Denver here in the first round of the playoffs (which is the way it would go if the tournament started today), I’d put my money on the Belichickmen.

But who has a good feeling about the Local 11?? They have yet to win a legitimate road game and they’ve lost three of four for the first time since 2002. They blew a 17-point lead in Indianapolis and a 14-point lead in Miami. They’ve blown three fourth-quarter leads. The 6-6 Steelers have won two Super Bowls since the last time the Patriots won a Super Bowl.

Locker room grumbling traditionally goes hand-in-hand with losing, and the Patriots are no exception.

Several players did not appear to be taking the loss too hard in Miami Sunday. Three days later, four players were late for practice. Yesterday, Thomas made light of the matter, refused to apologize, and issued what appeared to be a challenge to his coach.

“Motivation is for kindergartners,’’ Thomas said, echoing what he said the last time he was punished (Thomas was inactive for the snow game against the Titans). “I’m not a kindergartner. Sending somebody home, that’s like, ‘You’re expelled until you come back and make good grades.’ Get that [expletive] out of here. It’s ridiculous.’’

For the first time since Super Bowl XXXVI, a player is calling out Belichick. Thomas is a veteran and a union guy and he does not appreciate old-fashioned tough-love tactics from his coach.

It’s a departure from the Patriot Way, a mark of this whole season. Last year’s 11-5 was a far more noble campaign than this year’s 7-5. The Patriots of 2009 have showed no spine. They’ve done the easy things but none of the hard things. They’ve lost too much leadership and too much talent, and now Belichick is losing control of his locker room.

We don’t know what’s up with Randy Moss. He regularly checks out of games. He can’t seem to get open. When Tom Brady was picked off in the end zone Sunday, Randy for the most part just stood back and let it all be - like Springsteen’s poets in “Jungleland.’’

Moss was one of the tardy guys who was sent home Wednesday. We don’t know how he feels about it. But we know how Thomas feels.

ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, who watches more film than Martin Scorsese, says he has observed Patriot players loafing on defense. Dollars to doughnuts he’s talking about Thomas.

Finally, there is the Brady problem. In a week of hysterical headlines, this might be our most underplayed story. During the Miami loss, QB 12 looked like a man in considerable pain. He seemed especially dazed after the loss and said there’s not enough fight in this team. There’s something wrong with his finger, ribs, and shoulder. He did not practice Wednesday or yesterday.

It’s all very un-Patriotic.

Adalius Thomas is George Jetson. Bill Belichick is Mr. Spacely. And the Patriots are Lost in Space.

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

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