OK, so four players (Adalius Thomas, Randy Moss, Gary Guyton, Derrick Burgess) were banished from the Patriots’ facility today, sent home after arriving late for an 8 a.m. team meeting.
But you knew that. So has this laying down of the law made some sort of message clear to those in the locker room at a time when the team is struggling?
“I think it would’ve been laid down at any time of the year, regardless of whether we lost. That’s not acceptable here,” linebacker Tully Banta-Cain told me, after I presented him with the news of the day. “That’s Bill’s deal, and I think in general, everyone’s sense of urgency is a little higher now. We’re in that part of the season where it’s a four-game season.
“The antennas are way up. I think if anything it just brings the sense of urgency up even higher.”
Here’s where the issue is — The Patriots have four games left. If the Dolphins run the table, and it’s not outrageous to think they could, then New England can’t afford to lose another game. Because then, Miami will hold tiebreakers, as it did last year, and repeat as division champs.
It’s easy to say it isn’t do-or-die time in Foxboro, because there are four weeks left. But considering the above, it kind of is.
“We have to have a good week of practice and make sure we’re hitting on all cylinders,” receiver Wes Welker said. “That’s kind of what it comes down to. … I think we have a lot of guys who are fighters and we’re gonna continue to battle and do what we can to get better on a daily basis, and make sure we’re doing that.”
That, in fact, was the pointed part of Tom Brady’s clarification on comments regarding the team’s fight after Sunday’s loss.
He said that, “What coach tells us, and what I was alluding to, is probably more the other six days of the week. We got to make that commitment to each other, whether it’s Monday or its Tuesday or Thursday, whether you come in on Monday and work or stay for a two-and-half hour practice Wednesday and Thursday with no bitching and complaining. Just doing the job.
“I think at times we all feel a little sorry for ourselves and beat up and tired and sore. It’s late in the year. In the end, you’re either gaining ground on the team or you’re losing ground. I always prefer to be gaining ground, getting ahead and staying ahead over the course of the week.”
At least with some players, the message has been received.
“Even more guys are coming in, watching more film,” Banta-Cain continued. “We’ll see what we can do in practice today, and I think everyone’s got that gameface on right now. They’re not waiting til 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.”