The New England Patriots under Coach Bill Belichick have always been secretive about injuries endured by their players. The policy stems from Belichick’s determination to deny his opponents any possible advantage, and that includes information. But teams are required to file injury reports with the NFL office, and two former Patriots now say that the team lies on those reports.
Both players, cornerback Aqib Talib and linebacker Brandon Spikes, left the Patriots as free agents last week, after the team refused to offer them new contracts. So their allegations may be coming from the disgruntlement they feel toward the New England organization. But Spikes and Talib made their charges separately.
Spikes had been on the outs with the Patriots coach for several seasons, reportedly, based largely on what Belichick perceived as Spikes’ lackadaisical approach to showing up to New England team practice on time.
After Spikes showed up late to a practice session in January before the Patriots were to open their playoff run, the team placed the linebacker on the injured reserve list, ending his season and disqualifying him from taking part in playoff games.
“I heard they put me on IR and stuff like that. That was just a false report. That’s just how things go there,” said Spikes in radio interview in Buffalo, where he is now a member of the Buffalo Bills after leaving New England as a free agent. “Almost like what happened with Talib and his hip. That was just from the labor throughout the season, man. It was just — you know how it is — it’s a tough 16 games. All I needed was rest and rehab.”
Spikes allegation actually comes as very little surprise. At the time that the Patriots placed the 23-year-old 2010 second-round draft pick on the IR list, it was widely reported that the real reason was his lateness to the pre-playoff practice, after several previous similar incidents.
Speaking to reporters, Talib who signed for six years and $57 million with the Denver Broncos March 11, made virtually the identical charge, speaking about his absence early in the 2013 season due to what the Patriots listed as a hip injury.
“The Patriots have their way of reporting stuff, but I haven’t had a hip problem since Tampa,” said Talib. “The injury I had was actually a quad injury. It was reported as a hip injury, but that’s how they do things.”
The Patriots let Talib go without offering him a new deal, then signed corner back Darrelle Revis to take his place, a move that NFL experts consider a significant improvement at the cornerback position.
The New England Patriots organization has not commented on the Spikes and Talib allegations.