It's that time of the NFL season that seemingly happens every year when current and former coaches or players allege the Patriots have cheated or are currently cheating.
First, Jerome Bettis and Ben Roethlisberger claimed the New England defense knew their hand signals during the AFC Championship Game for the 2004 season. And now, some people are saying the Patriots may be trying to scheme something ahead of their matchup with the Cowboys on Sunday simply because they signed Ezekiel Elliott and Will Grier.
Other than the former Steelers players' recollection of that game being called out left and right for being completely fabricated, those suggesting that Bill Belichick and the rest of the coaching staff will be interrogating the former Cowboys players on the team seem to forget something.
The Patriots are not the only team in the league to sign players from teams they will play during the season. They're not the first team, nor will they be the last, but for some reason, because it's the Patriots, people decide they're doing something that has never been done before and should be investigated or punished accordingly.
Although any coach and player in the league are very well aware of this, they still decide to allude to sneaky behavior by New England. That's what Cowboys' offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer seemingly did when discussing the matchup in week four, revealing they will be changing hand signals due to Elliott and Grier's familiarity with them.
"We’re always aware of it. Those are things we monitor every week. But, certainly, we know Will knows where a lot of the bones are buried. Zeke does as well. So those are things you talk about and you think, OK, let’s adjust this. We certainly have more than one hand signal for most of our core concepts.
You can use it to your advantage because they think they know what’s coming and they hear something and they think, ‘It’s this’ and we’re smart enough to adjust those things. Everybody does it, you get a player that’s been somewhere, you talk to him about different things, and then you’re very selective about how much you put into it."
Luckily, it seems like Schottenheimer has a mind of his own, at least from what he's saying to the media. He didn't fall into the trap of outright accusing the Patriots of doing something to violate the rules and admitted it was something that any team can and will do.
However, because this has become such a topic of conversation, it feels like an early created excuse in case the favored Cowboys lose at home. They have had a hot start to their season, demolishing the Giants and Jets in blowouts over the first two weeks. But that changed in week three when they lost what seemed like a very winnable game to the Cardinals.
Since the presence of Elliott and Grier on the Patriots for this week's game is a non-story; it's all too convenient that it has become one as soon as the focus has shifted to week four.
It makes sense, given they're likely embarrassed they lost to Arizona with a backup quarterback and first-year head coach when they were heavily favored to win. But making this into some sort of potential controversy at the Patriots' expense, mainly because the team isn't feeling as confident as they did a week ago, is pretty lame.