It was just one exhibition game, but Demaryius Thomas looked like his old self. In the end, though, the veteran wide receiver’s standout play in the New England Patriots’ exhibition finale didn’t lead to a permanent place in Tom Brady’s passing attack, or even a spot on the team’s regular-season roster.
Thomas, in fact, was waived by New England just two days after catching seven passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns against the New York Giants in his only action of the preseason slate. Instead of capitalizing on that throwback performance and immediately signing with another team in need of additional pass-catching weapons, though, the five-time Pro-Bowler stuck around Foxborough, confident Bill Belichick and the Patriots would honor their word of re-signing him after making additional roster moves.
Indeed, New England brought Thomas back shortly thereafter. But in another display of the NFL’s most successful franchise prioritizing winning at any cost, the Patriots traded Thomas to the New York Jets a week after re-signing him, when the NFL’s most combative, troubled superstar suddenly became available.
Thomas, thankfully, quickly landed on his feet in New York. Despite continuing to deal with a nagging hamstring injury that caused him to miss a Week 3 loss to his former team, Thomas has eight catches for 109 yards over his last two games. Those numbers aren’t spectacular, but nevertheless represent on-field viability many believed would elude the 31-year-old forever after he suffered a dreaded Achilles tear last December.
Just because Thomas is settling in nicely with the Jets, though, hardly means he’s forgotten the sour end to his ill-fated time with the Patriots.
“It was insulting, for sure,” he told Manish Mehta of the Daily News. “Once I got cut (on August 31), I could have just come here (to the Jets) and not stayed there and re-sign. When they re-signed me, I was thinking that I was good. Two weeks later, I was gone. So, it’s like, ‘Why did I waste my time?'”
Thomas went on to call the circumstances of his departure from New England “disrespectful,” saying the trust he believed existed between himself and the team was broken.
Belichick, for his part, didn’t seem overly concerned when asked for his thoughts on Thomas’ pointed comments.
It’s indicative of Belichick’s longtime reluctance to publicly discuss personnel decisions that some around the NFL have praised him for offering little more than platitudes about Thomas. What he neglected to mention, to no one’s surprise, is the mistake the Patriots made by replacing Thomas with a player who was on the roster for less than two weeks – a development anyone paying attention could have seen coming.
New England signed superstar wideout Antonio Brown on Sep. 7, three days before trading Thomas to the Jets. Allegations of sexual assault against Brown surfaced the same day the Patriots parted ways with Thomas, the first in a wave of accusations of widespread misconduct – including another claim of sexual assault – that crested a week later in a disturbing, sprawling report by Sports Illustrated’s Robert Klemko.
On Sep. 20, less than a week after Brown made his New England debut by catching four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown in another blowout victory, he was released by the Patriots amid an investigation by the NFL into his alleged transgressions.
Subsequently asked by CBS’ Dana Jacobson, ahead of a game against Thomas and the Jets, ironically, about the “final straw” that prompted Brown’s release, Belichick made clear what his version of “The Patriot Way” is really all about: putting a winning product on the field, even at the expense of honor, honesty, and transparency.
Thomas, needless to say, probably wasn’t surprised.
Last modified: September 23, 2020 1:11 PM