EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 20, 2009

Patriots linebacker gets full dose of Humble Pie

Patriots linebacker gets full dose of Humble Pie

Bill Burt

FOXBORO — Sure, 59-0 is embarrassing. Beyond belief.

So is the fact that the Tennessee Titans apparently didn't have the right cleats, quarterback or intestinal fortitude to contend with the elements or the New England Patriots.

Did Patriots coach Bill Belichick lay it on a little extra thick to his cohort on the Titans sidelines, Jeff Fisher, who publicly criticized Belichick's role in "spygate?"

You're darn tootin' he did. Moby Dick has nothing on Belichick when it comes to memory recall.

But lost in the snow squalls and "playing dead" performed by the Titans Drama Team on Sunday night was another extremely embarrassing element for Patriot linebacker Adalius Thomas.

Thomas not only wasn't there to be part of the historic festivities, but his name was attached to two of the most embarrassing words for a proud, full-time, multi-million dollar athlete: Healthy scratch.

Welcome to Bill Belichick's Restaurant, where humble pie is always on the menu.

Thomas realized watching Sunday's tilt what a lot of other players around here, many better than him (see Ty Law and Richard Seymour), have realized. Resume aside, you can be replaced.

The official statement as to Thomas' surprise absence on Sunday was standard Belichick.

"We just went with the players we thought would have the bigger role in the game," he said on Sunday.

Yesterday, via conference call, Belichick added this less-than-stellar nugget:

"I think he's a good football player. He's versatile. He's made some big plays for us and he's done a lot of different jobs and we have a lot of confidence in him. If that wasn't the case then he wouldn't be here. I'm glad we have him. I think he can help us, I think he will help us and he has helped us and I feel that way about our other players as well."

If you were wondering why Junior Seau was called out of surfing/Zamboni driving duty again, you apparently have your answer. Thomas wasn't cutting it.

The fact that the Patriots would go with so many younger, semi-unproven linebackers like Pierre Woods, Gary Guyton and the immortal Rob Ninkovich ahead of Thomas indicates that somebody needs a wakeup call.

Obviously, Belichick and Patriots coaches didn't like what they saw the week before in Denver, when Thomas played in more than half of the game, coming out in many passing situations.

Thomas had one measly assist. That's it.

Belichick has some humble pie to chew on as well.

In 10 seasons here, Thomas is his "prize" free agent acquisition, guaranteeing the ex-Raven $22 million for two seasons and now $24 million through 2009.

While that might seem like chump change compared to the Redskins' bloated payroll, that's more of the drunken sailor variety for Belichick.

Thomas was brought here to make plays and/or get to the quarterback - sack him, hit him or both. While his versatility, and the fact that he can play inside and outside linebacker, may have hindered his ability to pressure the quarterback the time he has been here, he has been a disappointment.

His last three seasons with the Ravens, Thomas averaged more than nine sacks (28 in 48 games) to go with eight forced fumbles and three interceptions.

With the Patriots, it's been 14 1/2 sacks in 31 games, including two in the Super Bowl loss to the Giants.

He has only three forced fumbles and one interception, both of which were accumulated in his first season here.

Granted, Thomas was having a decent run when he broke his wrist last season, playing only nine games (five sacks), but his performance in 2009 — three tackles per game — has been embarrassing.

Considering that Thomas is slated to make about $5 million next season, at age 33, maybe the goal of this one-game respite will have long-term repercussions.

We know this: Tomorrow will be "Move On" day. Belichick will no doubt laud Thomas and Thomas will, while biting his tongue, say he has to do better.

It will be interesting to see if Thomas and the Titans, tails tucked neatly between their collective legs, learned anything from their lessons on Sunday.

E-mail Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.