On a team chock-full of supreme offensive talent, arguably one of the most important players has yet to appear at the New England Patriots training camp. Brian Waters, the Pro Bowl right guard, has not even appeared at Gillette Stadium for practice, casting fear into the hearts of many Patriots fans regarding the state of the offensive line. There has been much speculation from fans as to what the situation is, ranging from a desired contract extension to possible retirement.
There is, however, another possibility that can be found by remembering Michael Strahan. In 2007, the stalwart defensive end missed the New York Giants training camp and preseason, launching rumors of retirement amongst fans and the media who wondered whether he would return. Strahan did indeed come back for a final season, in which his team won Super Bowl XLII. Strahan was 35-years-old at the time of the missed camp, and likely wanted to rest his bones.
Waters (who, incidentally, is also 35) is likely taking time off from camp and preseason to rest his body and spend time with his family in Texas. He generally misses OTAs for this reason. My theory is this absence has been approved by Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio, and they’re simply remaining mum on the issue because that’s the way Belichick has always interacted with the media. Waters is probably keeping quiet on this because that’s what the players for New England are instructed to do.
Regarding Caserio’s quote that “everything is day to day,” I believe this signifies the idea that Waters will return when he’s good and ready (obviously before the regular season begins). As this is likely his final season, however, he probably wants to spend as much time as possible with his family.
Speaking as someone who missed two football practices in seven years, I’m actually not bothered by the idea of Waters skipping training camp. It’s not his talent that excuses him, nor the fact that he is a veteran, but it’s his situation that makes this palatable. The man is very close with his family, and is taking all the time he can. It’s his last year anyway; this could definitely be a favor from the head coach.
While the possibility of Waters actually departing the team must remain a reality, the likelihood doesn’t seem particularly strong. I fully acknowledge that I could be wrong on this one, and there may be an extenuating circumstance that hasn’t crossed my radar. I’m willing to make a solid prediction that the Patriots will have Brian Waters back in the starting lineup for Week 1 of the regular season.
You can follow Christopher Field on Twitter @ChrisDField.