Brian Waters has been an enigma for the Patriots.
The veteran offensive lineman started all 16 regular-season games for the Patriots last year and was voted to his sixth Pro Bowl. Yet his future with the team is uncertain, as ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss indicated on July 26:
Waters has not reported for camp, and Belichick described the situation as similar to the team's mandatory minicamp in June when Waters was an "excused personal absence."
Waters has been placed on the "did not report" list, cites Reiss. By failing to report for training camp, Waters could potentially be fined. Although, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio did not disclose that information during his media interview on July 28, per Reiss.
If the Patriots opted to fine Waters under such a fragile circumstance, the club may be burning a bridge. After all, Waters' plans have been unsteady for the last five months.
Following New England's Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants in February, the 35-year-old Waters said he would take some time to contemplate retirement, according to a tweet from the Boston Globe's Shalise Manza-Young:
though he signed 2yr deal in August, Brian Waters said he'll take 2-3wks to decide his future— shalise manza young (@shalisemyoung) February 6, 2012
With Waters AWOL, one can only wonder if it's a financial problem.
Based on Spotrac.com salary data, Waters is scheduled to earn $1.4 million this year before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2013. To put that figure in perspective, guard/center Dan Connolly signed a three-year, $9.7 million deal this offseason, and center Dan Koppen inked a two-year pact worth over $3 million.
Does Waters feel undervalued? Or is his absence strictly a retirement issue? Regardless of what's keeping him at bay, the Pats are longing for his tutelage on the O-line.
New England has three blockers on the active/physically unable to perform list, via Ourlads.com. The group includes Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins, starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and backup center Nick McDonald.
Due to these injuries, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia must find replacements to fill the void. In that respect, Waters has provided less notable players with more reps, and a chance to flourish.
Nonetheless, a tremendous weight would be lifted from Scarnecchia's shoulders if Waters arrives in Foxborough.
A definitive answer from Waters will arise sooner or later. In the meantime, the Patriots will work with what's at their disposal. The organization has to plan for the worst while hoping for the best—there's no alternative.