Former New England Patriots team captain and safety Lawyer Milloy recently expressed his side of the story about being released by the team in 2003.
Milloy, a defensive back, played his first seven seasons with the Patriots and became one of the best strong safeties in the NFL. He was an immediate starter in New England’s secondary and totaled over 100 tackles for five straight seasons from 1997-2001.
Although Milloy is not yet in the Patriots Hall of Fame, he is a member of the Patriots’ All-1990s and All-2000s teams, and he also helped the Pats win their first Super Bowl championship in franchise history.
Milloy ranks as one of the best players to ever suit up for the historic Patriots franchise. In seven seasons with the Patriots, Milloy totaled 537 tackles (tied for fourth all-time in Pats history) and 19 interceptions (13th all-time in Pats history) in 112 games (106 starts).
Unfortunately in 2003, after a controversial decision, Milloy was released by the New England Patriots in order to gain additional cap space just five days before the first game of the season. Not having many options at that point, Milloy signed with the Buffalo Bills and played against the Patriots in the first game of the ‘03 season.
This is what Bill Belichick had to say about having to part ways with his team captain, per ESPN:
"“Today is a day that nobody is happy about. This isn’t the way we wanted this story to end. This is the hardest player that I have had to release. It was the hardest situation that I’ve had to go through like this, here or anywhere else.”"
The whole situation came as a surprise to everyone, including Milloy’s teammates. This is what Tedy Bruschi — who was drafted to the New England Patriots the same year (1996) as Milloy — had to say about the random release of his friend and key player to the defense, per Deseret News and the Associated Press:
"“Has it ever been this quiet in here? I don’t think it has. I think ‘shocked’ is the word… You sort of just shake your head and ask yourself, ‘Why?'”"
On a recent episode of WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni, & Fauria, Milloy expressed how he felt disrespected by the New England Patriots organization and wished that he was given a better chance to test the free agency market … rather than only having a few days before the first game of the season to find a new team to play for:
"“It was obviously a pivotal part of my life and my career. When you’re dedicated for so many years – I was there for seven years – and helped really build it from the ground up to ultimately being a champion. I think I went to my fourth Pro Bowl in five years and then I was given an ultimatum: either take a pay cut or leave it up for discussion.“The Friday after the last preseason game, he pulled me into his office and gave me the same ultimatum and said that I have till Monday to think about it. So guys get released or have these situations come up all the time, it was just the way he handled it and waiting until the last Monday before the first game and it really disgusted me.“But looking back on it from a business standpoint, you’re trying to get the most competitive roster that you can and keep that salary down and I understand that part of it. It was just the way he did it.”"
Fauria then asked Milloy what was going through his mind leading up to the first game of the season against his former team and what Milloy remembered from going into the Patriots locker room prior to that game:
"“It was just really confirmation about how my teammates felt about me – that I had just left or departed. Again, I had given seven years of my heart and soul and sweat and tears to not only the organization but to the city. Obviously I’m in another uniform playing against my former team in the matter of days. It was really just a surreal moment for myself also, but it was some closure that really needed to happen. Me going into the locker room I guess it was some closure for me.”"
Milloy is absolutely accurate when he said that he helped build the dynasty and franchise of the Patriots from the ground-up as one of the original Patriots alongside Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, and Ty Law.
Hopefully, in the very near future, we will see Lawyer Milloy awarded a red jacket to be inducted into the New England Patriots Hall of Fame.