Cassel: How Pats' locker room deals with trading a guy like Gilmore


When a move like the New England Patriots trading Stephon Gilmore goes down, everyone in the locker room wakes up kind of shocked.

You'll have a conversation with your teammates like, “Man, did you think that was going to happen?” And a lot of us would probably say no. Nobody was looking at that situation thinking, “Well, they’re just going to move on from him.”'

But because Gilmore hasn’t been on the field this season, it’s a move that you kind of accept and move forward. There's been nothing in my experience to suggest there would be ill will or players would be pissed off that he’s no longer there. It’s just part of what we do as a profession.

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It happens consistently in every organization where moves are made and there’s not always an understanding as to why, but at the end of the day, you’re still there trying to get prepared for the next opponent, so there’s only so much time you can spend thinking about it before you move on.


Bill Belichick is very straightforward in these situations. Coach will come and say, "So, this morning I’m keeping you guys aware that we released Stephon Gilmore," and if there’s any other part of the transaction where someone gets added to the roster, he’ll make you aware of that.

There's no explanation for why we did it, though. It’s very transactional. It’s, "Hey, today we released Stephon Gilmore." That’s it. Then it’s on to whatever you’re supposed to do Wednesday in getting ready for your next opponent.

Players will have conversations afterwards about, “Hey, did you see this happening?” But whatever comments they make will stay in the locker room. 

I don’t think there’s ill will toward the team in this case, though. Because if you look at the situation in its entirety, obviously Stephon Gilmore wanted a new contract, they were on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of negotiating that contract, and it’s not like he’s been out there performing and helping the team.

There's definitely some initial shock after a move like this, however, and it was the same after the Patriots released guys like Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour and Willie McGinest.

Bill has always done that in New England: He looks at the writing on the wall and starts to move on from players before they get to a certain point where the production isn’t there.

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So, I think everybody in that locker room understands that unless they’re performing at a really high level, there’s always potential that you can get moved. Other organizations might hold onto players for longer periods of time just because of their names and their leadership, but Bill has always had a different approach when it comes to veteran players who have been around for a long time.

The gambles have paid off for him a lot of times. The one that everyone will always talk about is with Tom Brady, and whether moving on from him at age 42 was the right decision. But historically, they’ve had success with this approach.

Guys like J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones have stepped up and played well in Gilmore's absence. They’re playing good defense, especially last week, when they held their own against a really good Buccaneers skill group. 

I believe the relationship was sour with Stephon Gilmore, and it could have been a question of where he was at medically too. And at the end of the day, they knew this was going to be his final year anyway, so do you roll the dice and keep the roster spot for somebody who may not be on the field this season for whatever reason?


That’s a guessing game of why they did this at this point in the season, but there's obviously some underlying reasoning for the decision. Don't expect the Patriots to dwell on it, though.

Editor's Note: Matt Cassel played 14 years in the NFL as a quarterback, including four with the Patriots from 2005 to 2008. He serves as an analyst for NBC Sports Boston, appearing on Pre/Postgame Live, as a guest on Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast every Thursday, and as a columnist each week during the season.