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Moss looks to be at his New England crossroads

Earlier this year, Mike Freeman of stirred up a hornets’ nest by suggesting that Patriots receiver Randy Moss had reverted to his old “play when I wanna play” habits, which had undermined his time in Minnesota and characterized his two seasons in Oakland.

We sprinkled some jet fuel onto the fire by musing that Moss possibly sensed that special things would be happening this year in Minnesota, and that maybe he’d prefer to be back in purple with a clear front runner.

The talk of Moss dogging it disappeared fairly quickly, with Moss churning out highlights that conjured images of the things that a much skinnier version of Randy from Rand used to do.

But now the whispers are returning, thanks to the failure of Moss and three other teammates to show up for work on time today. Our old friend and colleague Tom Curran of Comcast Sports Net New England sums up the situation perfectly.

“It’s unfair to go so far as to say he’s reverted to not caring, but he is frustrated by the fact that he’s seeing more attention from defenses and, thus, less attention from Tom Brady,” Curran writes. “It’s been humbling for him to be shut down for three consecutive games and he’s edging closer to disengaging with each silent game. And his lack of attention to the detail of getting to the facility on time mirrors his lack of attention on Sundays. Build the world around Randy and he will happily sit on the throne you point him to. Tell him he’s got a supporting role and run the risk of him letting you down.”

Curran also points out that the other two veterans who were late on Wednesday -- linebacker Adalius Thomas and linebacker Derrick Burgess -- are showing strong signs of not caring. As to Thomas, Curran explains that Thomas has “taken a certain satisfaction in seeing coach Bill Belichick’s genius questioned this season.” Burgess, per Curran, simply doesn’t seem to care if the team wins or loses.

The recent developments have prompted running back Kevin Faulk to wonder whether Belichick’s decision to embarrass the three players by sending them home will push them over the edge.

“It’s no reason to go in the tank,” Faulk said, per Curran. “It’s more reason to fight. That’s what I’m going to do. It’s not the time to say eff it. But am I concerned? Yes. I’ve been concerned since Indianapolis.”

Meanwhile, quarterback Tom Brady’s wife had a baby on Tuesday, and Brady was at work yesterday and today.

“We’ve got to make the commitment to each other,” Brady said. “And if it’s Monday and it’s Tuesday and coach wants us to come in on Monday and work or stay for a two-and-a-half-hour practice on Wednesday and Thursday, then with no bitching and complaining, just doing the job. I think at times we all feel a little bit sorry for ourselves . . . But in the end, you’re either gaining ground on a team or you’re losing ground, and I always prefer to be gaining ground and getting ahead and staying ahead over the course of the week through walkthroughs, through meetings, through post-practice film, through you’re film study on Tuesday, through all of the treatment that you’ve got to do.”

So now we know why Brady has been more vocal. Several key players apparently have lost sight of what’s important, and Wednesday was the day that coach Bill Belichick decided to make them accountable.

As to the fact that driving conditions were less than ideal today, it’s not an excuse. Former Patriots tight end Christian Fauria tells Curran that the failure of Thomas, Moss, and Burgess to show up on time is “unbelievably careless.”

“Bill used to say, ‘It’s New England. Make sure you leave yourself enough time to get here,” Fauria said. “And that doesn’t mean you can call 10 minutes before 8 and tell me you’ll be late. Regardless of what time you’re supposed to be here, leave time for inclement weather.’”

And so a storm was unleashed inside the facility today, with Belichick sending the stragglers home. Whether it causes Moss and company to buy in or opt out remains to be seen. Either way, the message has been sent, and the team will be better off for it in the long run, regardless of the specific outcome of the 2009 season.