For a team as consistently successful as the New England Patriots, you would think most players would leave the organization with glowing reviews. But that's often not the case in New England.
Many notable former Patriots are disgruntled for one reason or another. You can go as far back as Lawyer Milloy and Willie McGinest during the dynasty years. Recently, starting defensive tackle Kyle Love was furious when he was released after being diagnosed with diabetes. And Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker told Yahoo! Sports this week about New England's stuffy football culture and the differences he sees in his new team, Denver Broncos.
"I feel like I can be myself a little more, for sure,” Welker said candidly. “All [the Broncos] told me was, 'Just be yourself.’”
Are the Patriots too uptight?
Welker certainly is describing New England as a place where it’s hard for players to be themselves. As a media member, I can vouch that New England’s locker room usually doesn’t offer much insight or personality. Players appear reluctant, and almost afraid, to say anything worthwhile about an opponent, injury or an upcoming game. It comes from the top with head coach Bill Belichick, who simply wants to coach football and views anything else as a distraction.
You cannot argue with the Patriots’ success the past 13 years under Belichick. His record includes five Super Bowl appearances and three titles. However, New England has also become infamous for expecting players to act like robots when they’re on the team and later treating them like replaceable parts when it’s time to kick them to the curb. That combination has rubbed some people, like Welker, the wrong way.
Welker also says that Patriots quarterback and good friend Tom Brady was not happy with New England's letting Welker go in free agency. Brady, partly due to New England's tight-lipped culture, essentially avoided the topic this offseason and said he is moving forward with replacement receiver Danny Amendola. It’s permissible for Welker to speak the truth now that he’s in Denver.
“He was upset about it, and part of me was a little upset about it too,” Welker said. “But things happen for a reason, and I'm excited about the opportunities here and the type of team we have and things that we can do.”
Football is meant to be fun, and perhaps the Patriots define fun only by winning, which happens a lot in New England. But it seems that a higher percentage of players than usual leave Foxborough with some kind of complaint.