By Kevin Saleeba
Sept. 4, 20011
Just prior to the 2009 NFL season, Patriots safety Rodney Harrison retired and was being honored on the field prior to the opening kick-off. Harrison put his finger into Brandon Meriweather's chest and told him "it's your team now!"
Harrison was passing the torch to Meriweather. He knew the talent and ability was there for Meriweather to be a dominant force in the Patriots defensive backfield for years to come. That's what makes Meriweather's recent cut from the roster so disappointing. He never lived up to his potential.
|Brandon Meriweather of the New England Patriots breaks-up a pass during Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008. (Harry How/Getty Images)|
The Patriots showed signs this preseason they had their fill with his inconsistent play and it was evident that Meriweather's job was in trouble. Belichick sort of eluded to it following the last pre-season game against the Giants, but Brandon Meriweather never saw it coming. After the game, despite being demoted to the last string in the second half of the last preseason game, Meriweather, for some reason, was "excited."
"I'm excited now, I am really excited," he said. "Everything counts now and now we can get down to football and play with the guys you know will be playing with you all the time."
Meriweather did not realize that the preseason did count. It counted for his job. Playing during garbage time in the last preseason game was the final message. Belichick simply said "We mixed up our rotations like we usually do." But you had to read between the lines, because you don't rotate your starting safeties in the preseason. Rodney Harrison never was rotated. Current starting safety Patrick Chung was never rotated.
"I don't know my situation," Meriweather said. "I think our coaches do a great job of rotating all of us in and playing a lot of guys, getting a lot of guys a lot of time with other people to see how they play together."
By that time, it was already over for Meriweather. Former practice squad players like Sergio Brown and free agent cast-offs like Josh Barrett out played Meriweather during practice and in the preseason games, moving ahead of him on the depth chart. After only a couple weeks of camp, Brown overtook Meriweather as part of the lead safety tandem along side Chung, but by August 15, Meriweather was working with the second group and he fell off the chart very quickly. Mixed up the rotations indeed!
|New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick yells to safety Josh Barrett (30) during the second quarter against the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium. (Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE))|
Don't let the Pro Bowls fool you. Rodney Harrison only played in two pro bowls during his 15 year career and no respectable football journalist will deny the impact Harrison made on the field or place Meriweather in the same hemisphere. And yet he was replaced by Barrett, who did not play all last season. "(Barrett)'s had an opportunity to practice the last couple weeks. He had a chance to play tonight, so that was good," said Belichick and that's all it took to beat out Meriweather for the job.
Another clue to Meriweather that his job was in jeopardy was the visits from veteran safeties Darren Sharper and Renaldo Hill to training camp. The team even reportedly tried to sign 49ers safety Dashon Goldson, but he opted to return to the Niners on a one-year deal. Although none of the visitors were signed, the Patriots were looking for help because they knew Meriweather was not cutting it.
Belichick made no comment following Meriweather's cut, but his actions leading up to it spoke volumes. Unfortunately with Meriweather, it fell on deaf ears.
Kevin Saleeba is a frequent contributor and columnist to Patriots Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has extensive knowledge of the team and experience covering the Patriots. Share your thoughts on this article, or send your questions to Kevin (here)
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