By Tom E. Curran
The good news for Brandon Meriweather? The 2011 draft class is short on safeties. One canassumethe New England Patriots hate when their employees get themselves involved in a story where the words "shot," "two men," "head" and, of course, "Patriots" are repeated over and over. It's bad for the Patriots brand and bad for that employees long-term prospects. Yet that's what's happened with Meriweather since a story broke on Deadspin.com that a well-known Florida personal injury attorney had two clients fingering Meriweather as the guy who shot them during a fracas. How will the Patriots react to this? That's really what's pertinent to the general public since Meriweather is only in our consciousness because of his football talent.Let us analyze. First off, contrary to public perception, Meriweather hasn't really done anything during his time in New England to advance the thug image he brought with him from the University of Miami. He executed a dirty hit on Baltimore's Todd Heap last year during a game. That's the extent of his rap sheet here. When he came to the Patriots as a first-round pick out of the University of Miamiin 2007, he was fresh off incriminating video of himself trying to stomp opponents during an on-field brawl with Florida International University (Meriweather is No. 19). That happened months after Meriweather shot - legally - at an individual who fired a bullet into his roommate Willie Cooper's buttocks. So while one can assume that he had a short leash in terms of behavior, he hadn't even pulled at the leash in his first four seasons here. Until this story bubbled up. Whether Meriweather was acting as peacemaker, as an anonymous eyewitness told the Boston Globe, or was just an onlooker, the Patriots will certainly be harsh on Meriweather for his mere presence in the situation.If it was going bad at the Blue Jeans Lounge, it was probably time to call it a night right then instead of heading back for a house party, which is where the shooting allegedly took place. Did Meriweather have a right to be out with his friends and cousins? Of course. Does that mean it was the right place to be? Doesn't seem so.(I make this judgment as a veteran of being in spots that I had a right to be in but weren't the right place to be.)Often, a players' off-field missteps are viewed by their team in terms of how valuable he is to the team. Meriweather, who is entering the final year of his contract, has been to the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons, In 2009, he was an alternate and got in when others weren't able to go. In 2010, he was selected despite being the third-best safety on the Patriots and seeing his playing time cut drastically in the middle of the season. He admitted to "doing his own thing" instead of executing the defense which is a reason his time was cut. To sum it up, he's a talented player who hasn't reached his potential. He's not a leader in the locker room and doesn't ooze (or even give off a whiff) of the professionalism secondary mates like James Sanders, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington and Leigh Bodden do.If he shot the gun, he's probably done in New England before the 2011 season starts. If he didn't, he'll be done after the 2011 seasons ends.