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Monday, November 5, 2012
Patriots provide silent treatment

By Mike Reiss
ESPNBoston.com

The New England Patriots acquired cornerback Aqib Talib at the trading deadline Nov. 1, although five days later, the club has yet to officially announce the move.

Now we know why.

It wasn't that members of the hard-working Patriots' media relations department suddenly forgot how to construct a news release or left their laptops behind over the bye week. This seems to be by design. Until Talib actually shows for the Patriots next week when his four-game NFL suspension is over, coach Bill Belichick and his staff apparently don't see the need to discuss anything about him.

Aqib Talib
Bill Belichick said Aqib Talib, his new cornerback, is a "good player" but offered little else.

Consider how things went down Monday when Belichick initially was asked about the trade.

"Right now, really, our focus is on the Bills and the players that will be preparing for the game with the team and the players that are here at this time," he said of the Patriots' next target, the Nov. 11 home game against Buffalo. "We'll take that as it comes. When he gets here, we'll deal with that then."

A few other questions on Talib didn't go much further, although Belichick did allow this: "I think he's a good player. I think he can help our football team. That's why we traded for him."

So at least that clears things up and serves as a team-based confirmation that, yes, a trade has been made.

It was almost more notable that Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia basically ignored Talib in their public remarks than if they had detailed some of the things that led them to trade for him. Seriously, when was the last time a team traded for a player, didn't officially announce the deal for five days, and then basically played dodgeball on questions about the acquisition?

Later in the day Monday, when Belichick went on sports radio WEEI for his weekly interview, he stuck to the script.

Belichick was asked how he deals with players, such as Talib, who have had multiple chances to do the right thing yet still find themselves in trouble. He talked in general terms about gathering as much intelligence as possible and making a decision based on the "total balance of information."

"In the end, when we bring any player on to our team, we feel comfortable with that player," he said.

Part of the decision-making process also is tied to the strength of the overall Patriots locker room, which is something eight-year veteran left guard Logan Mankins addressed Monday. While Belichick was reluctant to discuss Talib in any form, Mankins approached the topic like he does action on the field -- with blunt force.

"I haven't met him yet and I don't know a whole lot about him other than what I've heard," Mankins said on sports radio WEEI. "We'll see when he gets here, and when you bring players in, it's up to them. If they want to put in the work, they can watch the leaders around here and see how we do things. If they want to be lazy and do things their way, it's not going to work.

"I'm sure Bill did his homework and he's bringing in a guy that wants to play and wants to win. If he wants to play and wants to win, this is a place to come to and just do what you're supposed to do and do what the coaches ask of you and you'll be successful."

Talib, who impressed Patriots coaches in joint practices with the Buccaneers in August, is far from the first player with off-field baggage whom the club has brought aboard under Belichick. Some have fallen into line. Others haven't and didn't last long.

"I think you give them the benefit of the doubt and you try to see if they're willing to do everything," Mankins said on WEEI when asked if leaders would address Talib upon his arrival. "It's up to the player, and if they want to do it, this team is willing to keep them around. If they don't want to do it, we'll find somebody that wants to."

As for how it all goes for Talib, who can't have contact with the Patriots until his suspension is served, his tenure with the team got off to a most unusual start. On the first day his coach was in position to publicly address the trade, he barely did.

Thus, before Talib has played a snap with his new team, we already can call him a shutdown corner.