By Tom E. Curran
TAMPA - On more Saturdays than I care to count over the past few years, the Patriots have made some innocuous roster move ahead of Sunday's game.
Shrug. Tweet it. Write it up. Move along.
But when Bill Belichick and his staff stuck to that standard operating procedure before the Super Bowl in February, releasing Tiquan Underwood, SOP turned into The Sad Tale of Tiquan. By Sunday morning, Underwood's release had become another reason to beat the drum about mean Bill Belichick and the mean things he does because he thinks he's so smart.
Did it suck for Underwood? No doubt. Super Bowl's a big game. But his mature and professional insight on the situation shows why he's a player teams want around. Like Tampa Bay, where Underwood is having an impressive preseason.
Wednesday was the first chance to ask Underwood face-to-face about the Super Bowl release.
"Coach handles his depth chart decisions on Saturday the day before a game whether it's Week 1, Week 5, the playoffs and I just happened to be one of the latter guys on the depth chart," Underwood explained. "They brought up Alex (Silvestro) from the practice squad and I got released, but it's part of the business. I understand that. Now I'm trying to put myself in a better position so that when those decisions are made I'm not one of the guys that can be released."
So far, pretty good. Reunited with his college coach at Rutgers, Greg Schiano, Underwood is the Bucs' leading receiver in preseason with three catches for 76 yards in two games.
When it was mentioned that members of the national media felt the move was heartless, the 25-year-old said, "Not at all. The thing I love about Coach Belichick, he does what's best for the team every week for that game. The object in this league is to win the game. He did that and he's gonna continue to do that, day in and day out each week. As a player, you can't be on the back half of the roster because that's where tough decisions have to be made. I respect him because no matter what game it is, what week it is, he's gonna do that. ... I want to be one of the guys in the front part of the roster.
Underwood said there are, "a lot of similarities" between Belichick and Schiano, who are good friends. "They're tough coaches, they know what they want, they demand a lot from their players. Coming here helped me because it was a smooth transition (with their similarities)."
Despite the yo-yoing on and off the roster in 2012, Underwood's respect for his time in New England is apparent.
"They are a great organization," he prasied. "I'm just thankful to have played there for the time I did. I learned so much as a player and as a person. It's no secret why they're so successful. Those guys work so hard, the attention to detail and that's really helped me as a player. I've brought it down here and I'm trying to work on my craft."