While there has been plenty of praise for the recent two-part NFL Films documentary on Patriots coach Bill Belichick, there has also been a few pockets of criticism, mainly because two of the biggest events from that 2009 season are not detailed in the film.
The preseason trade of Richard Seymour to the Raiders, a move debated to this day, was only mentioned in the context of the aftermath of the trade, in a scene in which Patriots management discusses the move in relation to how they will now approach re-signing nose tackle Vince Wilfork.
The late-season incident in which four players (Adalius Thomas, Derrick Burgess, Randy Moss and Gary Guyton) showed up late for a meeting and were sent home even though there was significant snowfall on the roads was another incident that season which received plenty of media coverage and outcry. This episode was not mentioned at all in the film.
The absence of these events from the film has led some to question the integrity of the production. Even Chad Finn on Friday wrote in the Globe:
But criticism that relevant developments during the season were glossed over if not ignored entirely are just. Patriots fans would love to have any insight on the machinations that led to Richard Seymour being dealt to Oakland. And if there was a reference to “LateGate,’’ when Belichick sent four players home after they were late to a morning meeting because of weather conditions, it was brief enough to escape notice here. NFL Films said the Patriots did not request that anything be omitted other than some footage that included play-calling terminology. If that is indeed the case, shortchanging the Seymour story in particular was a glaring omission in an otherwise superb production.
As part of an article appearing this week in Patriots Football Weekly, I had the opportunity to interview the film’s director/producer, Ken Rodgers, and I asked him specifically about those incidents. Here’s how that part of the interview went:
Bruce Allen: I’ve seen some media gripes about two events from the season that were fairly big in nature, but in one case just briefly mentioned and in the other, not mentioned at all. The trade of Richard Seymour and the late-season incident in which four players were sent home after arriving late for practice. Did these things happen when the cameras weren’t around and rolling? Or in the case of the second event, was it just not the big deal that the media made it out to be?
Ken Rodgers: You’ve got it – we simply weren’t there. While I was around for a majority of the season, we weren’t a Hard Knocks style crew covering every move the team or Coach Belichick made. Since we were capturing history, covering every moment of this particular season wasn’t really the point – we were covering Coach Belichick and making sure we got all sides of him in all situations. The Seymour trade happened on a random preseason day that we had no plans of being there (we did capture a meeting afterwards talking about the implication of that trade on the Wilfork deal) and I believe the lateness issue was during the Carolina Panthers week – and again, we simply didn’t shoot leading up to that game so we didn’t generate any material on it. I can tell you that had I been there and captured anything on the subject that was good enough to make the film, it would have been in there. My sense of it, however, was far more was made of that incident externally than what actually occurred internally.
Far more was made of the incident externally that what actually occurred? Shocking. I think the rumors at that time were that the increasingly disgruntled Adalius Thomas was the one who dropped the dime to the media on the LateGate incident, which propelled it into the spotlight.
So anyway, if you were among those wondering why these two events were not in the film, you now have an explanation from the ultimate source on it.
As time goes on, I’ll reveal some more of my interview with Rodgers, including his take on Mike Felger’s insistence that the original trailer to the film tried to revise history when it came to the 4th and 2 call in Indianapolis that season.
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