EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 29, 2011

Patriots have lost their way

On Pro Football
Hector Longo

Grab your spiked shoulder pads and hoard the red and blue face paint.

The Oakland Raiders — Eastern regional version — have taken over Patriots Place.

In a pair of deals, New England obtained Albert Haynesworth from Washington and Chad Ochocinco from Cincinnati, severely besmirching the character and reputation of this football franchise.

What's next? Pacman Jones to play corner? He and Haynesworth could split the tab in the VIP lounge at the Foxy Lady.

In these two, coach Bill Belichick adds 261 games and eight Pro Bowls to the team's resume.

But they are a pair of career losers with a .469 winning percentage and plenty of baggage.

For all those offseason problems, the lawsuits, the complaints, the laying down on the job, they do deliver the sage experience of one career playoff win.

One!

Haynesworth is an absolute dog to the 10th power. Belichick could be the savior himself, but this is a guy who tortured two different coaches in Washington after bilking the Redskins out of $41 million (roughly $6.31 million per sack) guaranteed.

Someday, Belichick will be in Canton at the Hall of Fame. Right next to him will be Mike Shanahan, who couldn't find a way to coach Haynesworth into a successful preseason conditioning run, never mind scraping the surface of his potential.

All Haynesworth represents is the next quick fix in the hole vacated by Richard Seymour, a big, fat Band-Aid on a gaping wound at right defensive tackle.

Every time this franchise gets overly frugal, it gets toasted.

Look at the good money and draft picks tossed after bad to fill the void at corner when Asante Samuel was deemed too expensive.

And now we have that "three technique" disruptor spot which Seymour perfected here. Teams — think of the Jets and Ravens for two — have feasted on the hole there as Belichick tried to patch things up with names like Jarvis Green, Mike Wright, Gerard Warren, Ron Brace and Myron Pryor.

Seymour's former Georgia linemate Marcus Stroud was expected to be the latest answer. He couldn't pass the physical yesterday and was released, ushering in the need for Haynesworth.

Ty Warren yesterday at camp called Haynesworth's skill set "freakish."

Did he look freakish as he cowered on the turf, loafing while Mike Vick picked the rest of the Redskins defense apart? Check it out on YouTube.

Belichick is no fool. He'll figure out this fraud by the time the exhibition games begin.

Let's put it this way, if he makes the opening day roster, I will buy an Albert Haynesworth game jersey — not the cheapo replica either, the $250 official home jersey — wear it for the game and in both locker rooms for the postgame press conferences.

Folks, Haynesworth just ain't gonna happen here.

And that brings us to the afternoon's acquisition, the aforementioned Ochocinco.

Funny, I listened to Vince Wilfork after the morning session speak of life in Foxboro.

"It's always the team first. That's the Patriot way," said Wilfork. "If you can't put the team first, then you won't be here. That's the motto that we live by. We really don't care too much about the individual (accomplishments) because we want to win."

The guy couldn't have summed up the career of Chad Ochocinco more succinctly.

Seriously, has there ever been a more vain attention-gatherer than Ochocinco? The guy makes Deion Sanders look humble.

How much does this guy care about the team and winning?

Well, I harken back to last year's opener at Gillette, in which Ochocinco undressed Darius Butler on the way to a 12-catch, 159-yard performance.

Imagine what he could have done if he hadn't spent his pregame hours shopping for jeans at one of those trendy Patriots Place shops. While his teammates were loosening up or going over the pregame, he was buying jeans. At least the three shopping bags full of stuff in his locker would indictate his pregame spree.

The guy's talent has never been in question. He's been a stud since entering the NFL as Chad Johnson.

But nobody — not Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Corey Dillon, Seymour, Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, nobody — has lugged an ego of these proportions into this home locker room.

Look, I've preached for years now that Belichick's top priority is to milk the Tom Brady Era for as long as he can. Pour talent around him. It's a tremendous strategy.

But have the New England Patriots, who are 0-3 in their last three playoff games, grown this desperate?