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March 14, 2004
Rewards Or Rings Defines You The Patriot
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net

You worried about Ty Law and the slop coming out of his mouth the other day? Don't be.

Afraid that Ted Washington is now a Raider, Damien Woody is now a Lion, Mike Compton is now a Jaguar? I'd be more afraid of seeing Pedro Martinez in a Yankee uniform in 2005.

You're probably concerned that Richard Seymour now wants the Poston brothers to represent him, too. At least Arn Tellem (Nomar Garciaparra's agent) doesn't do football.

What we have here, for the most part, is a bunch of football players who are doing nothing more than showing their true colors. The colors are not red, white and blue. The colors are green and silver, mostly green.

Law is mouthing off again, only this time it is the mouthiest he has ever been. He frothed off at the mouth to the Boston Globe on Saturday, saying that he "no longer wants to be a Patriot", and that he "cannot imagine ever putting on the uniform again". He goes on to say that he was lied to, and that taking a pay cut for a new deal is insulting. The Patriots chose not to insult Law anymore, so they said they would carry his 2004 salary on the books.

Other columnists have chimed in with their take on this, so we'll spare you the redundancy. Law is trapped within his contract, he is livid over the money Champ Bailey is getting, and there is not a darned thing that Law can do about it except complain. Law will tell you that it is all about pride and respect, but fortunately Patriot Nation knows that its intelligence has been insulted.

Nobody connected with the Patriots should be alarmed at anything Law says. He has no leverage whatsoever, and has no choice but to light it up in 2004 so that he can perhaps score big next year as a 31-year-old. The Patriots hold all the cards in this situation.

In fact, the Patriots hold a lot of cards. The Patriots have firmly established themselves as an organization which can make this salary cap thing work. The reason they can is that they have the smartest head coach in the NFL (as stated yesterday in this column), the smartest personnel head man, and the best capologist (assuming Andy Wasynczuk has a hotline to Miguel Benzan), along with two Super Bowl championships to back everything up.

The Patriots have demonstrated often, especially in 2003, that the team can keep on winning when starters are lost to injury. Bill Belichick has designed his team to function well with whoever is in there. You might put Russ Hochstein at the top of that list, with his great job in the Super Bowl in going up against Kris Jenkins (gee, where is Woody these days?). This is only one of a ton of instances where the Patriots won anyway despite having a slew of backups in there playing.

Again, if Law bothers you, sit down, crack open a brew, and let us do the rest.

Seymour wants the Postons to represent him. This naturally means that, when his rookie deal is up, he will want something like (sarcasm)A-Rod money(/sarcasm). Some team out there with no aspiration to win the Super Bowl will gave him A-Rod money. The Patriots will be left with much the same defensive line which, along with an absent Washington, was good enough to win 30-26 at Denver. Maybe Seymour will be sensical and try to find a way to stay, but the Postons will likely feed him the same warrior garbage they feed Law and Lawyer Milloy. By this time, Belichick will already have Seymour's replacement groomed and ready to go, if a replacement is needed at all (was this why the Patriots got Rodney Bailey?).

A recent Globe article painted a gaunt picture of what havoc Tom Brady could be reeking on the Patriots right now. With the kind of money Peyton Manning got recently, from a team that grossly overpaid to keep a quarterback that really hasn't won anything in his career to deserve that kind of money, the article quoted someone who suggested that Don Yee (Brady's agent) march right into Belichick's office and demand half of Fort Knox. If the Patriots said no, Yee would have Brady off somewhere in Alaska come training camp. Ugh. Pardon me while I fetch the milk of magnesia, you're probably saying.

Brady is on top of the world right now. He has two rings and two Super Bowl MVPs. But few people will recall that Brady went down in the 2001 AFC Championship Game with a high ankle sprain, Drew Bledsoe came in, threw a touchdown pass and managed the game well enough to get the Patriots to the Super Bowl. Granted, this was just a one game fix, and the Patriots would perhaps overpay a little bit to keep Brady. But down the road, you may soon find out why the Patriots drafted Kliff Kingsbury last year.

Who else might raise a ruckus? Tedy Bruschi? Troy Brown? Matt Light? Bruschi briefly popped off after Milloy left last fall, but quickly recanted his rant. Brown has complained about being underpaid, but that was a few years ago and it was very brief. It's too early to gauge what Light might do when a new deal is in order for the guardian of Brady's blindside. Every one of these guys has enough character to be smart and stick around. But every one of these guys has also gone down with injuries in the last three years and has been adequately replaced (for example, can you remember Grant Williams and his studly effort in Super Bowl XXXVI?).

Now, look to men like Hochstein, Mike Vrabel and Kevin Faulk. They all signed extensions. Look to Willie McGinest, who took still another adjustment in his contract just so he can stay and help bring in more talent. Stay further tuned to all these guys who have contracts up after 2004 and see which ones stay versus those who bolt for the big bucks.

What you'll see emerging is a distinct separation between Patriot players. You'll see the ones who want rings, and you'll see the ones who want rewards. As long as Belichick and Pioli are at the helm of the personnel department, the Patriots will continue to bring in the guys who just want to win. As long as Belichick roams the sideline in charge of the whole thing, these guys will always have a chance to win the whole thing. You won't see the guys who want the big payday more than they want the rings.

And this is why the Patriots can operate this way, and that nobody should be concerned with anyone whining about not making enough money or getting enough respect. When one set of bargain players suddenly becomes too expensive to keep, the next bunch simply comes in and takes over. And as long as Belichick roams the sidelines and outcoaches the pants off his opposition, what's to say that this winning tradition won't continue? If you are worried that the loss of Law (or Seymour some day) is potentially devastating, just remember the nice work that Hochstein and Tom Ashworth did in the Super Bowl, and worry no more. When the Patriots say "team first", it's a statement with as much strength and deep meaning as "In God We Trust".

Woody and Washington will languish in their new venues. They will laugh all the way to the bank, they think. If that's what Milloy does up in Buffalo, then good for him. Law himself faces a similar fate. If it's rewards he wants instead of rings, he's better off somewhere other than Foxborough.

And it's not like the Patriots don't have options. Put Eugene Wilson back at his natural position and draft a free safety. Or, keep Wilson in centerfield, try out Asante Samuel at left corner and draft a cornerback as insurance. Whatever "downgrade" there is could be offset by the fact that Law is past 30 and may have peaked this year.

Law would be well advised to shut up, head for St. Louis and let Bob Kersee do his thing, then come back and go into salary drive full tilt.

Besides, what with all the diamonds Bob Kraft figures to put into the new ring, Law could always sell the ring on E-Bay and perhaps come out ahead of Bailey financially, if it's really that important to him. Then, when you are talking rewards versus rings, you will really know which side of that fence Law sits on.


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