Were the New England Patriots wrong to cut defensive tackle Kyle Love after his recent diagnosis with Type 2 diabetes?
It’s a simple question, albeit one without a simple answer.
Love’s health is, of course, paramount, and I think I speak for all of New England in wishing him the best, both medically and professionally. He’s already signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and I’m happy for him.
The simple question still gnaws at me though, and while I respect any team’s right to waive any player it so desires, I can’t help but wonder if the Patriots missed the mark this time.
For years, fans have been bludgeoned with the notion that the Patriots run their team differently than other franchises; that somehow they’re above the common off-the-field and inside-the-locker room issues that plague the NFL’s proletariat.
After all, if they consistently succeed in a way no other franchise has during the salary-cap era, they must be running things differently behind the scenes to make it so. Nobody can effectively quantify their secret to success, so we just call it the “Patriot way” as the mystique continues to build.
Players—both former and current—will tell you it’s about holding yourself accountable and putting the team first.
From where I’m sitting, the bottom line seems to be winning football games and finding players committed to that cause. It’s a great concept, and the whole “no I in team” mentality is an admirable one, but we often overlook the ruthless flip-side to that coin.
Placing the team first, by definition, makes individuals expendable. We’ve seen it before. Bill Belichick jettisoned Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel and Randy Moss, to name a few. He waived Tiquan Underwood in cold blood the day before the Super Bowl. He pushed New England’s beloved Wes Welker into archrival Peyton Manning’s open arms.
Those were all football decisions. Nobody said they were easy choices, and Belichick gets paid big bucks in part because he’s not afraid to make unpopular moves for the good of his team.
Love’s agent, Richard Kopelman, told the Boston Herald that this, however, was not a football decision. It was based purely on Love’s medical condition.
“I was assured this was pure and simple a medical decision,” Kopelman said. “I asked, ‘Was there something else at play here?’ And I was told no, it’s 100 percent a medical decision, and that’s all there is to it.”
To hear him tell it, the Patriots gave Love an ultimatum; retire, take a year off and see where things stand, or be released. Technically, Love chose to be cut, but it’s hard to blame him since he was far from guaranteed any future with the team after his “retirement.”
If this was a football decision purely based on performance and production, I’d get it, but it wasn’t. Love started 11 games in 2012 and was a productive player during his time in New England. There are no guarantees in sports, but he earned a roster spot.
Of course, there are valid concerns about whether a diabetic should be tipping the scales at 300 pounds or more, but I’m not naïve enough to think the Patriots cut Love for his own good. They’re just not that sentimental.
It’s fair to wonder if somebody with Love’s condition could not only maintain his playing weight, but also remain effective while playing one of the most physically demanding positions in all of sports. If the Patriots don’t think he can, they have every right to cut their losses and move one.
Kopelman says Love will be 100 percent in a few short weeks. I hope that’s true, but we don’t know for sure. We don’t know if he’ll be able to balance his health against the demands of his position. We don’t know if he’ll ever be as effective as he was before his diagnosis.
The only thing we do know for certain is that Love would still be a Patriot if he didn’t have diabetes. Frankly, I don’t know if that’s right.