Should Belichick bench them? Would he?

It's not difficult to imagine Bill Belichick deactivating Adalius Thomas after hearing the outside linebacker's reaction to being kicked off the New England Patriots' premises Wednesday morning.

Belichick disciplined Thomas, receiver Randy Moss and linebackers Gary Guyton and Derrick Burgess for showing up late to an 8 a.m. meeting. Belichick sent them home and forbade them from practicing.

Thomas was asked if the punishment could be motivational.

"Motivation is for kindergarteners," Thomas told reporters Thursday. "I'm not a kindergartner. Sending somebody home, that's like, 'He's expelled. Come back and make good grades.' Get that [expletive] out of here. That's ridiculous. Motivation?"

All four latecomers were on the practice field Thursday, but there are no guarantees Belichick is through with them.

Thomas already was a healthy scratch once before. Belichick benched him in Week 6 against the Tennessee Titans, and Thursday's comments could keep him in street clothes Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

But what about the other three?

Could Belichick make a bolder statement by scratching Moss, Guyton and Burgess at a critical time?

Perhaps he should, but perhaps he cannot afford to.

The Patriots are one victory ahead of the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets in the AFC East standings with four games to play.

Benching a few starters certainly would grab the locker room's attention at a time when it might be needed.