Saturday, March 22, 2014

Talib, Spikes and Belichick are all telling the truth, depending on your point of view

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Perhaps Charles Dickens could be the only person, albeit posthumously, to explain how the New England Patriots do business and how their policies circumvent the very core of human decency - the very image of head coach Bill Belichick being cause for the common fan to recoil in repugnance. 

The epoch of Bill Belichick is plagued with tales of deceit, espionage and all manner of dark malfeasance - just like a typical Dickens' tale - from the moment that he wrote his resignation as the "HC of the NYJ" on a cocktail napkin and fled Jets' headquarters for Foxborough, Belichick has been a lightning rod for controversy - his distaste for the authoritative policies or Roger Goodell and the National Football League well documented and ongoing.

You either love him or you hate him - there is no ambiguity, no black and white, and any feelings that one might have in regard to the coach that has been dubbed "The Hoodie" transcends race, color and religion - he's an ornery cuss, but he's the same ornery cuss to everyone...

...or as commentator and former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason once said, “For all those people who want to have a reason to hate Bill Belichick, well, he gives it to them." 

Most can handle it, some can not, and it seems that every time a household name leaves the Patriots' organization for browner pastures, we are bound to be regaled with stories of rotten behavior - or at least pushing the outside of that envelope.

The list is long (but not necessarily distinguished, depending on your point of view) of former Patriots unceremoniously shipped off to other area codes who had less than fond things to say about Belichick, and even coaches and journalists - loosely termed - get in on the act.

First there was safety Lawyer Milloy being released just days before the start of the 2003 season and signing on with division rival Buffalo, causing a rift in the Patriots' locker room, according to ESPN Analyst Tom Jackson and prompting him to say that the players "hate" Belichick - then Drew Bledsoe being traded to the Bills, and more recently names like Wes Welker, Aqib Talib and Brandon Spikes being discarded in free agency...

... the supposed furor over Milloy's departure was soothed over by a Super Bowl title (funny how winning does that), the trade of Bledsoe infuriated then-Boston Globe reporter Ron Borges (reportedly Bledsoe was the only player that would have anything to do with the rat-faced Borges), and Welker actually ended up screwing himself by listening to his agent, who blamed the entire fiasco on Belichick.

And let's not forget about "Spygate", the video taping of other team's defensive signals which brought about league sanctions against Belichick and the Patriots organization, and has been a convenient excuse for every team that ever lost to New England before and since - brought about by a complaint to the league office by then-New York Jets' head coach and former Patriots' Offensive Coordinator Eric Mangini.

Then there was last summer's debacle when the Patriots released tight end Aaron Hernandez immediately after he was arrested for the execution style murder of his friend Odin Lloyd, the team accused of judging Hernandez before having a fair trial and, perhaps worse, of knowing about his violent past and current troubles and working to conceal them.

Ah, the Patriot Way.  Last summer, there were many that doubted that such a thing ever existed at all., but as the article attached to that link will assure you, the Patriot Way is nothing more than a Mission Statement, derived by the media to try and explain how the Patriots had gone from doormats to World Champions:

"A standard that the Kraft family embraced, though not in so many words - as you will seldom hear anyone in the organization use them - an impromptu and unofficial mission statement that they never tried to do anything but culture and to edify, doing the best that they could to uphold a standard that they knew could never be reached, given the ambiguity of human nature - because they really had no choice."

So when players leave the organization, their new team's beat writers and fans are understanably curious as to what goes on behind Belichick's iron curtain - and anything that comes out of a player's mouth is going to be twisted into something negative about the Patriots, regardless if it were meant in a hostile manner or not.

Take Aqib Talib, for example.

Upon signing on with the Broncos last week for many dollars, he was asked by a member of the Denver media about his hip injury, to which he replied:  "The Patriots have their way of reporting stuff, but I haven't had a hip problem since Tampa. The injury I had was actually a quad injury. It was reported as a hip injury, but that's how they do things."

The knee-jerk reaction to his comments would be to assume that Belichick was fudging the injury report, but upon closer inspection, the spirit of the injury report was accurate.

The quadraceps is a cluster of four different muscles that surround the femur on the front and sides and join in with three other groups of muscles to surround the joint, including the hamstring, adductors and abductors - the quadraceps and hamstring at particular risk for injury in football because they cross both the hip and knee joints.

The most common mechanism of injury for muscle strains in the hip area occur when a stretched muscle is forced to contract suddenly. A fall (which is what happened to Talib) or direct blow to the muscle can tear muscle fibers, resulting in a strain. The risk of muscle strain increases if the patient has had a history of injury to the area, which Talib did - in Tampa.

As may be guessed, the evaluation of an injury in that area can be tricky, but if the pain in one's hip is attributed to one of the quad muscles, it still affects the hip primarily - so while Talib may have been passing along correct information, all Belichick did was to generalize the injury on the report, which is all he is required to do, and probably before the source of the injury was known.

But while Talib's remarks can be passed off as a statement of truth in passing, the same can not be said of Brandon Spikes, who came out in the Buffalo media and on twitter swinging for the fences - commenting to Bills' beat writers that when he was placed on the injured reserved list in early January with a knee injury, it was not a mutual decision as the club had reported it.

Rumor had it that Spikes had been placed on the IR as a disciplinary measure by Belichick for missing a team meeting because his car was stuck in the snow, a rumor driven by a similar circumstance in 2009 when Gary Guyton, Adalius Thomas and Derrick Burgess and wide receiver Randy Moss were sent home from a team meeting for being late due to the snow...

...and while there is precedence to make a case that being sent to the season-ending IR was a disciplinary measure, the fact that it is against league policy to do so raises an eyebrow, and the fact that he did in fact have a knee injury makes any argument otherwise a moot point.

Another unconfirmed report that Belichick had considered releasing Spikes for the transgression holds more water, particularly knowing that Spikes was a goner after the season in free agency anyway - but Belichick placed him on the IR so that the linebacker would receive his full playoff share.

In the end, everyone is telling the truth. Talib couldn't have said anything different, Spikes could have and Belichick hasn't said a word, nor will he - nor should he.  According to the rules of the injury reporting procedure, Belichick did everything by the book - but because it's Belichick and because it's the Patriots, a mountain was made out of a mole hill.

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