FOXBORO, MA — The Patriots locked up their free safety for the next seven seasons when Lawyer Milloy signed a $35-million contract yesterday, and head coach Bill Belichick was the first to express his thoughts on the fact Milloy will be part of his team.
“I think it’s pretty well documented that all the qualities that Lawyer has as a person and a football player are ones that I greatly admire,” said Belichick. “You can pretty much pick out just about any of them and have quite a number of compliments and examples of Lawyer fulfilling them. He is a player that came into the league four years ago, I had the privilege of coaching him in ’96 and we had a great year going to the Superbowl. I think he plays the game the way I believe it should be played.”
“I know that this is a big commitment by the organization to Lawyer, and it’s one that I think is very deserving. The way the system is set up now, there are only so many players that you can make this type of commitment to, you just can’t do it to everybody, that’s just the way it’s set up. He’s the type of player that I want to commit to, I’m proud to commit to, and I think the world of him and I’m happy to be back with him.”
As for Milloy, he was quite aware of the debates that have gone on regarding his effect on the salary cap. Ben Coates was cut Wednesday, and long-time veteran Bruce Armstrong was released yesterday as well. Milloy feels that the organization has done a great job of keeping it’s core players together, and isn’t going to take all the blame.
“I think the Patriots have done a good job keeping our core players,” said Milloy. “With those players you’re able to nurture some of your young guys. When you sign Ted Johnson, Ty Law, Willie McGinest and others, you have the make-up of the team. After that you fill in where needed. I’m not going to take the brunt of this situation on my shoulders. It was just my time, it was something I worked for the last 4 years. I put myself in this position, it’s a wonderful position for myself and my family, this is just the next step for me. As far as football is concerned, I just plan to keep going out there and doing what I’ve been doing.”
“What the money means to me and my family right now is just really stability. A player like myself playing the way I play this game, life can really can end any day. If you look at Derrick Thomas and the tragic end to his life, you look at Dwayne Bishop and the way he went down in the Superbowl that’s just the harsh reality of just how quickly everything can end. That’s why this whole process was really important not only for the money side of it, but for the stability of my family so that I can know that their O.K.”
Milloy did go on to say that the signing of head coach Bill Belichick did play a part in his decision to remain in New England.
“I think with the addition of Bill Belichick, I think we have a very good shot. He was a big part of the reason why I decided to try to get this thing done. I told my agent Ray [Anderson] ‘if I have chance to stay in New England, I would love to do that’. For one, these are the only guys I know, these are the guys I’ve been bleeding for the last four years, and number two I think with the addition of Bill Belichick, I think that our drop-off the last three seasons at the half way point, I think he’s the type of coach that can guide us through that and keep us going, and hopefully we can win a championship here pretty soon.”
As for the salary cap, the Patriots chose to clear $2.8 million by releasing Armstrong, whose cap number for 2000 was $5 million. The Patriots also restructured the contracts of linebacker Ted Johnson and defensive end Willie McGinest to give the team even more room. The moves leave the Patriots a few million dollars under the cap and give them resources to negotiate with wide receivers Shawn Jefferson and Troy Brown, linebacker Tedy Bruschi, and defensive lineman Chris Sullivan, all of whom became unrestricted free agents at midnight.