By: Bob George/
June 11, 2004

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Patriots owner Robert Kraft owns no concerns that Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are missing OTAs
New NFL policy lets players who don’t want to stand for anthem stay in locker room

FOXBOROUGH - Nothing is perfect, nothing goes perfect, and that includes champions.

If you're the king, every little thing is under the microscope. Contract squabbles get more run than political issues. You perhaps wanted to know who didn't go to the White House versus who did go. Ted Washington is gone, Charlie Weis might be gone, and suddenly the Patriots have gone from frugal and smart to cheap and stingy.

The most positive thing that happened to the Patriots thus far in the offseason happened this week. For once, the Red Sox finally took their rightful place as second banana to the champion Patriots. The same day that Nomar Garciaparra returned to the lineup Wednesday against the Padres at Fenway, Ty Law told the world that he now wants to retire as a Patriot, and that all he said earlier in the offseason was basically taken out of context.

The positive spin? One of the major Boston media organizations put the Law revelation as the top story, with Nomah at number two. Given the coverage of the Patriots and Red Sox last fall, that is simply remarkable. Only in Boston could a 14-2 campaign which ended in a Super Bowl win be totally overshadowed by the Red Sox almost acquiring Alex Rodriguez, and almost trading Garciaparra to the White Sox.

Mandatory mini-camp began on Thursday, which is little more than a three-day workout session where all players have to be at or get fined. The Patriots have three vignettes, one minor and two major, which everyone will be looking closely at. Nobody really cares what actually goes on at the sessions, not that anyone will find out (the workouts are closed to the media). All anyone wants to know about is what happens outside the sessions, and how various interpersonal relations work out.

Weis is a minor problem, or at least he was until this week. Revelations came out a few weeks back from his agent, Bob Lamonte, that Weis was unhappy with his status in New England. This column opined that this was more about Weis wanting to be a head coach some day, and not about the Patriots lowballing their longtime offensive coordinator.

Weis, who is making perhaps half as much as he is worth when compared to his peers, spoke out on his own behalf on Tuesday and tried to set the record straight. He said that he is "an offensive coordinator, not a negotiator...a coach, not an agent" and merely wants to help the Patriots win once again. He called himself "an advocate, not an adversary".

While all this sounds nice, it did nothing to diffuse or disprove the likelihood of him not being back in Foxborough next year. All Weis did was to reassure everyone that he would not be a distraction in 2004. He did contradict his agent, but only to the extent that he is okay with his contract right now. The future is still very much in doubt concerning Weis, and his return in 2004 would be very surprising. If Weis does come back next year, it also might reflect the fact that Weis is not as hot a head coaching prospect as everyone, including Weis and his agent, might think.

The next day, Wednesday, was Law's day to make with the yummy, delicious remarks which everyone wants to hear. Law said he met with Bill Belichick, a meeting where, according to Law, "we settled differences, and now we're out to accomplish the same mission. We're world champions, so you can't be upset or mad too long." Law went on to say that "This is home for me. This is the only place I know. I'm glad to be part of the tradition and the history, and hopefully I can continue to be . . . This is where I started, and this is where I want to finish. If that happens, I'll love it. If it doesn't, I'll still be playing football somewhere else."

So, everything's forgotten and forgiven, right? Belichick says nothing but the truth and Champ Bailey's salary means nothing to Law anymore, is it?

Balderdash to all of the above, including the waffling of his opinion of the Patriots in general, as well as any contrition that might have been gleaned from his Wednesday statements. This whole thing has nothing whatsoever to do with making amends with Belichick or the team. This is Law's agent Carl Poston surrendering to the inevitable and who has advised his client to implement Plan B. In this case, Plan B means "quit this warrior stuff" and "get the fans off their side and back on yours". This is terrific advice, albeit about three months too late.

The feelings are the same. Law wants more money but is powerless to try and get it. Poston knows the Patriots have both of them up the creek. All this is is damage control, geared towards Law not having to face a massive chorus of boos from the Gillette Stadium crowd this season. The Patriots didn't even blink when Law called Belichick a liar and trashed out the organization in general. For perhaps the first time in his career as an agent, Poston finally gave a client good advice.

Then you have the case of one Corey Dillon, and the first days of the rest of his life. He now plays for a champion, though he has had no hand in any of the two Vinces the Patriots have won to this date.

And Dillon knows this very well. Dillon is busting his tail to try and get in shape and to impress everyone and everything Patriot. Thus far, Dillon has not jumped ugly on anyone, but instead has won some praise from his new teammates. It is no small fact that, if Dillon is anywhere near his best days as a Bengal, the Patriots will be near impossible to deal with on offense.

However, Dillon is taking an odd tack this weekend. Mini-camp ends this weekend with a party at Bob Kraft's house, where the champs will receive their rings. Dillon has already stated that he will not attend this party, saying that he hasn't earned the right to go. "Why would I go?" he told the Associated Press on Friday. "That's something for them."

Them? Oops. Bad choice of words, Corey.

Dillon should go to this party. Already he is making a separation between "he" and "they". If he wants to be a true team player, the only pronouns he should know and employ are "we" and "us". It would seem that seeing his new teammates get their rings would be inspirational to him. Another ex-Bengal, newly acquired cornerback Jeff Burris is going, so why not Dillon?

This is not meant to "condemn" Dillon, as he is acting on a noble, if misguided, premise. He desperately wants to win respect, and wants to rid himself of the "malcontent" label he brought upon himself while languishing in the football Siberia known as Cincinnati. But if you could read his new teammates' minds, they might say that they'd prefer Dillon to see the event. If nothing else, the perception that you always want to be with your team no matter the circumstances goes over better with everyone in general.

Enough with this gossip malarkey. Everyone in shape, coach?