Following the New England Patriots Super Bowl loss in February, offensive lineman Brian Waters said he was considering retirement. Waiting for an answer, the Patriots gave him an excused absence from training camp meaning he wouldn’t be fined for the missed time. As of Sunday Waters has yet to report to the team with the first game coming in just a week.
The Patriots have stayed true to their usual “Patriot way”. They’re willing to talk about players in camp but not those who have yet to report. But the Patriots have said more than ever because of the decisions they’ve made regarding Waters. Usually the Patriots believe the team is far greater than one individual and are willing to cut ties with anyone not committed to that concept. But this doesn’t seem to be how they’ve treated the current situation.
Usually by now the Patriots would’ve made some action with regard to a player that hasn’t reported. Had this been any player in the past, the Patriots would’ve been expected to either punish the player though fines or cut ties completely sometime in those four months. The Patriots haven’t even made any adjustments to his locker in Gillette Stadium and have kept his number unoccupied.
Waters is under contract for the 2012 season for which he is owed $1.4 million. By staying put in Texas, Waters is hoping the Patriots will release him so he can sign for the Houston Texans. He’s told friends he wants to play closer to his family. But the Patriots aren’t letting go that easy. They still hold hope he’ll give in and report to New England.
The Patriots wanting Waters’ return is not surprising. Matt Light announced his retirement at the beginning of the season. Then Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer were injured for the majority of training camp. At one point the team had to sign more offensive lineman just to have enough bodies on the field. Even with Mankins and Vollmer back, others on the line haven’t played as well as head coach Bill Belichick would like. All this leaves the team in need of their Pro Bowl guard.
The fact that the Patriots have taken the steps they have means they are praying for Waters’ return. So far they’ve given him leniency they’ve never done before. But the 35-year old, six-time Pro Bowl guard has still yet to return. With a week until the opening game, it’s unclear if he ever will.