Jan 20, 2013; Foxboro, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the fourth quarter of the AFC championship game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Truth: Part 5 – Rude notes, random thoughts and pineal glands…


Pineal glands are weird.

Located on the vertebrate section of the human brain and situated between the gray hemispheres, many refer to the serotonin producing gland as the “Third Eye” or “Ajna” that, according to Hindu metaphysicists, is the point of the sixth chakra of the human lifeforce- more commonly known as the sixth sense.

It’s the place where hunches are born, where reason and intuition meet to form speculation and opinion, and when combined with a constant as a base it becomes a football prognosticators greatest tool - so when one takes a step back to refresh the mind before processing all of the information leading into a season, the hemispheres come together and an honest evaluation evolves…

…and also for football coaches and personnel mangers and scouts, who are paid as part of an evaluation process to acquire players that fit into a designated scheme, a complex and often times complicated matrix that values hunches and instinct just as much as film and testing and interviews.

It isn’t an exact science, to be sure, but it’s not just a stab in the dark either – though that’s what it seems at times – so it’s really no surprise that the obituary for the New England Patriots dynastic run is being written by media around the country, starting with their own beat writers and radiating outwards as far and as fast as the internet can carry it…

…so it is important in times like these for us to take that step back, take deep breaths and meditate on fundamental football – not the opinion of others, rather, to activate that weird little gland that sits at the base of the brain, not only spewing chemicals that regulate sleep patterns and internal clocks , but also acts as an intelligence gathering warehouse that accepts information from one side of the brain, mixes it all up with natural intuition from the other side of the brain…

…and, yes - the brain.  How little is known of it?  How heavy a subject is the brain on a meditative walk in a dirty little burgh in central Maine, especially at such an hour?

It is 3:00am on a misty New England morning.  The sun will peek over the horizon in less than two hours, but chances are that I won’t see it – not because of this ungodly overcast sky that is secreting this spray bottle mist, but because I am tired, and as soon as my body tells me it’s had enough of this asphalt track lining the football field of the local high school, I will trudge home.

This is my meditation – how I converse with my inner voice, my soul.  Not much traffic nor any sign of human existence to break my concentration out at this time, none of those annoying black gnats that fly into every exposed orifice of your body, not even the family of groundhogs that live burrowed under the port-a-potty’s at the east end of the facility are out at this hour – just me taking my soul out for a walk in the weather…

…and the subject we’ve chosen to meditate on is football – and the football brain in general, the Pineal gland specifically and, ultimately, a thing called ajna -  the sixth of seven energy centers in the body, tied by Hindu tradition to the pineal gland, the very thing that brings insight, intuition and imagination to life – activating my own and pondering that of New England Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick…

…looking for a confirmation of everything that I have written in the previous four portions of this doomed series – for after meditation lifted the veil of uncertainty from around my inner vision, Belichick’s master plan seemed so obvious that why I didn’t recognize it sooner is the only mystery that remains.

When I wrote in the first four parts of this series that the 2013 New England Patriots were still going to be a juggernaut on offense and will field the best defense they’ve ever had, I honestly believed it – from my muladhara (base) to my sahasrara (crown) I believe it, or I wouldn’t have written it – and I’d like to think that decades of studying football has enhanced the projection, not closed my mind off to truth.

French philosopher Rene Descartes called the Pineal gland the “Principal seat of the soul” and believed it to be the metaphoric umbilical between the intellect and the body – and other scientists and philosophers spoke of the mystical awakening and enlightenment that came from the activation of the Pineal, along with things such as clairvoyance and higher states of consciousness.

We all have them, those pineal glands.  No bigger than a grain of rice, yet it is the most important part of the brain, enabling creative genius by linking the rational, thinking hemisphere of the brain with the intuitive, feeling hemisphere – so it goes without saying that it is the balance and health of the pine cone shaped gland that determines a person’s course, be it as a dreamer or as a doer.

Unless, of course, you are the rare individual who can do both at the same time.

Bill Belichick is a creative genius, and all of football has marveled in his wisdom for going on a decade and a half now - his chakra, when balanced, leading to inspiration – believing in himself to the point of perceived arrogance, his unique sense of personal style and individualism fodder for those who wish to be his foil…

…some accuse him of having an overdeveloped gland, as he is judgmental, inflexible and pragmatic – always thinking outside the box and in touch with his ego - in essence, a know-it-all.  Still others judge him as having an under-developed chakra due to his propensity for avoiding the spotlight and his conspicuous distaste for the media. – but he is in fact all of those things solely as a result of being a football coach and a master tactician.

And not just that, as he also subscribes to the annihilation theory – that he doesn’t just want to win football games.  He’s been doing that, rather, he wants to punish the opposition, running them over like he was in command of a division of tanks.  His no huddle, up tempo offense has been fully capable of doing this to the opposing defense, and now he has the pieces to do the same on defense, though it has been a long process…

…one that started once his confidants and good friends left his coaching nest, leaving Belichick bare of his sounding boards – once his Patriots had properly disposed of the Philadelphia Eagles on a cool northern Florida night in February of 2005, he stood on the sideline in an embrace with offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel…

…which would have been awkward, but given the gravity of the moment – the Patriots had just won their third Lombardi Trophy in four years, and all three knew this would be the last time they would ever coach from the same sideline together – nobody really cared about perception.

Weis had the head coaching gig at Notre Dame waiting on him and Crennel the same position with the Cleveland Browns – leaving Wild Bill to his own devices with no one to tighten the reigns when he got a little too smart for his own good – the result, an eight year hiatus from hauling in big silver trophies.

But Belichick learned from his mistakes, learning that 19-1 will never be better than accepting the Lombardi Trophy from the commish, learning that speed kills in more ways than one and that arrogant presumption is not a firm base from which to build a football team – and once that balance returned to his Chakra, his want and desire was to build once again what had brought him championships with his old friends Charlie and Romeo…

What Belichick had with those two on the sideline was a balanced offense with a bruising running game and brash young quarterback that liked to spread the ball around.  They scored plenty of points, or at least enough to allow the defense to go full speed without worrying about the risks – a defense that counted on it’s cornerbacks to eliminate the opposition’s receivers so that the front seven could harass the quarterback with vigor.

The quarterback isn’t so young any longer, but he’s still the quarterback on the back end of a Hall of Fame career.  The running game is bruising once again and the team has brought in new pass catching talent to spread the ball out to.  They will score many points, more than any of those championship teams ever did…

…and the defense once again has the talent and violent intent to give pause to many an offensive coordinator – and combined with the knowledge of what Tom Brady is capable of doing to their own defense, these coaches know the truth – that the Patriots are formidable and to write them off or to merely underestimate them is a dangerous way to proceed.

Yet in the wake of injury and felony and rumor of dark malfeasance, those without clear chakra see only a franchise and a dynasty in chaos – the end of the line for the mythical Patriot Way – but consider before jumping off the bandwagon:

Training camp begins in just a few weeks, and there is so much talented depth on the preseason 90 man roster that camp battles for spots on the regular season 53 man roster could constitute a free for all – not because there needs to be significant turnover, but because the depth is that talented…

The camp battles will be intense, with many players with plenty to prove, and some of the more intriguing…

* The mix at linebacker is an absolutely loaded with talent – The incumbents, Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower are a solid trio and appear to be safe going into camp, but the Patriots need to find ways to get multi-tool talent Jaime Collins on the field as much as possible – and also it will be interesting to see if and where Steve Beauharnais fits in the scheme.  Both are hybrids, Collins at rush linebacker and defensive end, Beauharnais at inside linebacker and safety.

* Both cornerback positions are as strong as they’ve been in years, yet a battle appears to be brewing between oft-injured Ras-I Dowling and incumbent Alfonzo Dennard.  Dowling is a bigger, more rangy back and one gets the feeling that the position is actually Dowling’s to lose, as the Patriots have been waiting for two years to see him be able to perform.  Logan Ryan could be in the mix as well, has the look of someone that could give Arrington a run for his money as physical as he plays in the slot.

* The addition of Collins on the roster adds one more option to a Patriots defensive line that suddenly has plenty of them.  With Armstead and Kelly joining Vince Wilfork at the tackles, it is conceivable that Collins could team with Chandler Jones as bookends, though Rob Ninkovich is the incumbent and a terrific player.  The real battles will be between Jermaine Cunningham and those looking to eclipse him as top line depth.  Michael Buchanan, Jason Vega and Jake Bequette are those with a realistic shot to do just that.

* Along the offensive line, right guard is the only position that could be labeled as “unsettled”, and that’s only because the question looms as to whether Marcus Cannon would be an upgrade over Dan Connelly, and if so, would it be prudent to just leave him as the top depth anyway.  Really no need to mess with this winning formula at all, so versatile depth is where the coaching staff will be looking, with Will Svitek and Nick McDonald the favored.

* The running game is in excellent shape, as Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden and Leon Washington all could earn final roster spots – and running behind the best run blocking offensive line in the NFL doesn’t hurt.  Vereen will also be used extensively in the passing game, so Ridley is the man in the backfield, and don’t rule out a pro bowl type performance from him.

* Tight End obviously took a big hit with the release of Hernandez and Gronkowski’s protracted surgical history, but this is where Belichick’s forward thinking pays off.  He acquired Jake Ballard last season while he rehabbed a knee and rookie Zach Sudfeld is proving to be a find in OTA’s.  Michael Hoomanawanui and Daniel Fells round out a group that may see only three roster spots available.

* As well documented as the turnover at receiver has been, there appears to be somewhat of a comfort zone between Brady and the trio of Danny Amendola and Julien Edelman with Shane Vereen as an X-factor out of the backfield – and all should have roster spots.  What Brady needs is to have three more receivers make an impact in camp and seize roster spots.  Michael Jenkins appears to have an inside track by forming a repertoire during OTAs, so it will be up to rookies Aaron Dobson, Mark Harrison and Josh Boyce to fill out the roster.  All three have experience in the slot and out wide, with Harrison a candidate to fill the H-back role.

* Tom Brady is the quarterback – after that, well it’s a strange mix of a tall guy with a cannon for an arm and an elusive signal caller that can run the option but doesn’t have a big arm.  Either way, if Brady ever got hurt, the question would be which style they’d be more comfortable with.  That being said, Tim Tebow has an excellent chance to make the roster because not only are the Patriots adept at play action, but they are also set up to succeed with a tremendous ground attack that Tebow would thrive in, otherwise it’s up in the air – as would be the Patriots’ chances with Brady on the mend.

It is easy to get lost in the fog of negativity surrounding the New England Patriots in wake of their Summer of Pain – well documented by Borges disciples and mostly in a sensationalistic manner - Many are blindly jumping off the bandwagon, choosing uncertainty over their own soul – a typical knee-jerk reaction to tribulation, a time when one truly discovers who has their back and who doesn’t.

So go for a walk, preferably in the weird mist that swallows up New England on summer nights and think about this team and the job that Bill Belichick has done in building up the depth chart - don’t take my word for it, nor anyone else’s – do your own soul searching, differentiating between what you want in your heart and what you know in your head…

…because chances are that the two are only as far apart as the hemispheres of the brain are from the pineal gland, which we now know isn’t really that far at all.

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