80 Out?

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Memo to all of my friends and coworkers: If you have a favorite Patriot player, you’d do well to keep that to yourself as evidently, Belichick hates my friends and has chosen to release all of their favorites. As previously detailed, Colleen is furious (and Peyton Manning is most likely clapping his hands in glee like the spoiled child he is) at the release of Ty Law. And tonight, on my way home from work, I got a voicemail message from Kerri. It was garbled and scratchy as the T is not at all conducive to phone conversations and I refuse to be that girl who speaks loudly into her cell phone on the T but I listened to the message and heard, “Kristen! *static* The Patriots released *static* T–*static* Br—*static*!” And I swear to you, I nearly wet myself in fear as terrifying visions of Tommy in a Raiders jersey flashed before my eyes. I sat in my seat and quietly panicked until the T pulled into my station. Then I listened to the message again. Troy Brown. The Patriots have declined Troy Brown’s option.

I immediately dialed my dad who works from home most days and who would be available to give me the lowdown.

Dad: Hello?
Me: I just got the disturbing news that the Pats have released Troy Brown.
Dad: Really? Huh, let me check.
Me: Check Boston.com. What’s going on?
Dad: Says they declined his option. They’re saving $5 million against the cap. That’s a lot of money for a fifth receiver.
Me: He’s also a defensive back and a punt returner!
Dad: Kristen, we do not get attached to players.
Me: But…he’s Troy Brown! He’s your favorite!
Dad: I know but the Patriots are ruthless. They don’t mess around with stuff like this.
Me: But…TROY BROWN! Your main man Troy. You’ve loved him since before he was-
Dad: Troy Brown, I know.
Me: So, what does that mean? Will they sign him for less or is he not coming back at all?
Dad: They could sign him again. He could test the market and they could sign him for less money. He’s a good receiver and an adequate defensive back.
Me: And punt returner!
Dad: We root for the jerseys. You’re too attached to the players. The Red Sox would have just thrown money at the problem.
Me: Uh huh and if I remember correctly, I’m perfectly happy with how they fixed the problem the last time they threw money at a player.
Dad: You’re too emotional. If the Patriots are in the thick of the Super Bowl hunt next year, you won’t be bitching about Troy Brown.
Me: Hmph.
Dad: It’ll be fine. Belichick has it figured out.
Me: So what, Crennel, Bruschi, Earthwind, Law, Phifer and now Brown. We don’t wanna win with defense anymore?
Dad: They’ll figure it out.
Me: Well, I, but…Troy Brown!

I’m probably making too big a deal of this. As my dad said – because he has been a fan far longer than I have and has lived through much more of this – it’s entirely possible that the Patriots are just letting Troy test the waters of free agency before signing him to a less lucrative contract. They did something similar with Willie McGinest a few years back. And look how well that worked out. I sincerely hope that’s what happens here. I mean, as I said, he’s Troy Brown. He’s spent his entire 12-year career thus far with the Patriots. All of it. That’s pretty amazing. That doesn’t happen anymore. Some players don’t even make it to twelve years and if they do, most of them don’t play for the same team for that length of time. And if they manage that, they surely don’t switch positions in their twelfth year without so much as a whimper of complaint.

Troy Brown is the very definition of “team player.” Hell, he plays on three – offense, defense and special teams. He’d probably carry the Gatorade bottles if they asked him to. Need someone to tape up Tom’s ankle? Ask Troy. Hey, can someone run the towels to the laundry? Troy’ll do it. We’re down a popcorn vendor. Just plug in Brown. In all honesty, that kind of “all for one, one for all” attitude is all too rare in professional sports. I’m going to stop picking on Terrell Owens because despite my personal feelings for the man, his Super Bowl performance was impressive (and also Mer will yell at me), but there are way, way too many Ray Lewises blustering about their toughness, Alex Rodriguezes bragging about their workout programs or Ron Artests making it all about them in pro sports. Troy Brown and his selfless attitude are a breath of fresh air.

And yes, I’m probably too emotional when it comes to certain players. But, while my dad has seen many men wear the Patriots uniform, for me, Troy Brown has always been there. Twelve years is half my life. Since I was twelve years old, number 80 has been a consistent part of the Patriots receiving corps. He’s always been there. It’s true that as you get older, so do the players and you must, though it’s hard to admit, say goodbye to some of them. Whether it’s because of retirement or free agency or injury, players go and teams change. And, as my dad says, we root for the jerseys. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

So here’s hoping that the Patriots know what they’re doing. They’ve given me no reason to believe otherwise. Let’s hope training camp opens with Troy back where he belongs, whichever side of the field that is. I know this team and front office is notoriously unsentimental when it comes to player contracts and thus far, the resulting performance offers much to recommend that method. Three rings in four years will do quite a bit to quiet the critics. I know “football is a business” and all that. But I’ll still fall in love with the players. I can’t help it. And I’m not sure I’d have it any other way. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find Richard Seymour and hide him under my bed until the season starts.

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