By: Kevin Rousseau - Kevin's Articles are Sponsored by
March 21, 2006

No Brady or Gronk, but plenty of storylines at Patriots OTAs
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski not at the start of the team's OTA's today
NFL notes: Don't be surprised if Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers rise up for Patriots
New Patriots DL Danny Shelton preps to hit the hill
Patriots center David Andrews excited with his new Georgia Bulldog teammates

Hurt. Anger. Disillusionment. Betrayal.

In the coming days, such words will be tossed around to describe the feelings of Patriot Nation on the news that one of the most popular Boston sports figures of all time has left us for a hated arch-rival.

If you travel at all around this country, you learn that we are thought of in this region as being petty, self-centered and revenge-minded when it comes to our sports.

"And on these charges brought against you in this case, Mr. Rousseau, how do you plead?”

"Guilty as charged, your honor.”

To an outsider, we may indeed seem self-absorbed but frankly that's because we actually care what happens to our sports teams. There is arguably no greater sports city on the planet. As I see it, this is largely due to the emotional connections to the past that develop over time between players and fans in this area. When was the last time Johnny Pesky, Ray Bourque or Bobby Orr paid for a meal around here?

So when a player who we have become endearingly attached to â€" in this case, Vinatieri - decides to spurn us, the Ginsu knives quickly come out of the drawer. "How could he do this to us? Why wouldn't he want to stay here in the Hub of Sports Nirvana?” we resentfully ask.

#4 is responsible for some of the most joyous moments in my life that don't involve the birth of my children. Watching that kick keep floating as if guided by Divine intervention against the Raiders. The shock of seeing the Patriots win the greatest Super Bowl of them all in New Orleans in person. The countless game winning kicks in the fourth quarter throughout the years. These are the bookmarks in my life.

Man, the more I reflect on all of them, I could write a column on just those moments. Yet now, these memories are somewhat a little less than perfect. Perhaps that is what is turning in my stomach today.

There are plenty of ways to slice up the Adam-Bolts-To-The-Colts blame pie and let's start with the greatest clutch kicker of all time.

I hope that extra million or two dollars that he will earn in the middle of nowhere (read: Indiana) will be worth it to him fifteen years from now. In exchange for a more lucrative bird in hand now, he has abdicated any ability to sell me a slice of pizza, a checking account or a pair of sneakers here in New England after his career is over in football. Those outrageously priced autograph-signing sessions might be a little harder to come by as well.

By going to the Colts, he has thrown away any remaining goodwill that may have still existed towards him if he had flown off to Green Bay or Dallas. This is not the equivalent of Bobby Orr jetting off to the Blackhawks. This is the equivalent of moving from Ali to Frazier's camp.

But the largest piece of blame pie is reserved for the New England Patriots organization and the perceived arrogance that has finally caught up to them. For years, they were praised for not overpaying and living to tell about it after letting players like Lawyer Milloy go that weren't part of the "Patriot Way.”

Despite being a whopping $20 million under the salary cap, we have had radio silence from Foxboro so far in free agency. It's difficult to perceive a scenario whereby whoever they bring in via free agency is going to make us think that this will be a better team on paper come September than the one that imploded in Denver back in January.

Let's take a quick look around the team: A question mark at running back, wide receiver, secondary and now the kicking game. Oh, and don't forget a new defensive coordinator.


In the coming days the Patriots machine will spin out the propaganda about how they saved money and how Vinatieri was on the downside of his career, etc.

Don't buy it for a minute.

If they think they saved a million dollars by letting him go, humor me and keep your binoculars focused on Bob Kraft's luxury suite when he sweats a potential home playoff gate being in the hands of Paul Edinger during a late December game.

This feels like the beginning of the end, doesn't it?

Once one player didn't take the hometown discount, the wheels began to fall off the cart. Next it will be Stephen Neal, then Tom Ashworth and then (Lord-forbid) Troy Brown.

It's days like today when you think for a moment that perhaps you would be better off spending your free time following the local jazz scene or getting hooked on impressionist paintings instead of watching professional sports. If we did, then we wouldn't have to feel the way we are right now.

The truth, though, is that the valleys of days like today make the wonderful triumphs of tomorrow that much better.

Let's just hope that in the Patriots case, it won't be as long of a wait as I now think it's going to be.