Last week, Wes Welker made headlines with his comments to Sports Illustrated about his former coach Bill Belichick. While what Welker said about having to put up with Belichick is certainly not surprising, because Belichick can be a bit of a tyrant, his comments about talking to the media does bring something to the forefront of our thoughts — this isn’t the first time a player has been silenced while with different teams.
The freedoms many of us use freely are usually squelched with certain teams in professional sports, such as the Patriots. Remember Adalius Thomas? Randy Moss? Chad Johnson? All of these players have had gag orders because of their issues talking with the media. Chad Johnson might have been the first to comment publicly about the restrictions Belichick places on his players’ mouths after he was a Dolphin, but before he was arrested for domestic abuse and released by the team.
“My personality was controlled last year. You didn’t hear me at all last year. Zero. Zilch. When my mouth is running, it forces me to perform,” he had told ESPN.
The biggest reason coaches keep players silent is because opponents will use any bit of negative comment as motivational fuel. Welker had given the Patriots reason to silence him due to the whole Rex-foot-fetish issue. Something like that could have propelled the Jets to a victory, that is if they hadn’t been so inept. But if you remember, Welker was quick to apologize and explain that his comments were meant in jest the next day. That was Belichick doing damage control, not Welker. Belichick, specifically, wants to control everything he can about his team. There is only so much you can do as a head coach to control how the public views your team. Besides winning, preventing your players from saying much silences critics and prevents a negative image.
It’s easy for outsiders to deplore this type of behavior (gag orders, not the chiding in front of teammates thing. That IS kinda deplorable, especially for a veteran leader in the Patriots locker room) but remember, this people are in the public eye and are paid oodles of money. There is a certain trade-off you have to agree to when you enter this business. I would expect to stay squeeky clean and quiet if I was in the same position. And it’s not a bad thing to make sure your team is viewed in the best light possible. Remember, these coaches, or other team executives, are always thinking of the best interests of the team. Belichick shouldn’t be viewed as a villain. But it is interesting to see just how far-reaching Belichick’s power is with the Patriots. Welker illustrated that with this intriguing quote:
“When I’m answering questions from the Denver media, I’m not worried about what the Broncos’ people are going to think. I’m worried about what Belichick will think. Isn’t that crazy?”
Yes Wes, that is pretty crazy. And we are all very happy for you about being freed from the “Patriot Way”. But that is what you get sometimes when you want to be a NFL player. Sometimes you trade words for wins.