In November 2007, someone put a package of diapers in Laurence Maroney's locker. "Some reporters deduced [that] teammates [were] ribbing him about the caution in which he was being utilized," Mike Reiss wrote in The Boston Globe.
At the time, it looked like a harmless prank on the running back. But recontextualized three years later, it seems like it was a hell of a lot more cruel than that. Maroney, who was traded to the Broncos for a fourth-round pick this week, never got over his reputation for being, well, a baby -- at least in a football sense.
"I just felt like it was the right time for us to move on,'' Bill Belichick told reporters Wednesday. "I have a lot of respect for Laurence. He came in, been here for four years, worked hard. I think he's improved a lot and has helped us a lot as a player. I think he would have helped us this year, but we just felt like it was time to move on."
Coach speak, of course. But what did you expect Belichick to say? That Maroney never ran hard enough? That he fumbled too much? (He coughed the ball up four times in 2009 alone, including several around the goal line.) Come on, we already knew that about Maroney, who the Patriots took with the 21st overall pick in the 2006 draft.
He had his moments, but not many of them. In his best year, 2007, he rushed for 835 yards on 185 carries. He amassed 244 yards over two playoff games that season, against the Jaguars and the Chargers. He also scored the opening touchdown in Super Bowl XLII, in which he gained 36 yards on 14 carries. In the end, it didn't matter. The Patriots fell to the Giants, 17-14, losing a shot at a perfect season. In 2008, a nasty shoulder injury forced him to miss all but the first three games of the season. Maroney rebounded in 2009 with a 757-yard campaign, but it obviously wasn't enough to change Belichick's opinion of him.
Unsurprisingly, Maroney never truly endeared himself to the Patriots, at least according to this report by Shalise Manza Young.
A league source noted that night that the 25-year-old Maroney never matured as the Patriots had hoped and didn't always go the extra mile in his preparations.
And the "Maroney didn't get it" theory hasn't exactly been debunked.
According to [Kevin] Faulk, Maroney was a bit perplexed by being traded.
"Think about it," said Faulk. "Put yourself in his shoes. You go to work and your boss tells you you've been traded or let go, it's a little confusing, but at the same time, it's life. You got to move on."
Move on, but with what? Faulk is still viable, as are Fred Taylor and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. But Taylor is fragile. And Green-Ellis is still largely untested. What if Taylor gets hurt again? Then who fills in? I'm not sure.
I just know it won't be Maroney, who should've seen this coming. We all could, even three years ago, when teammates put a package of diapers in his locker. Sadly, at least according to Reiss' story from 2007, Maroney couldn't read the tea leaves back then.
"I feel like my time is going to come. Right now is not my time and I'm just going to play the role they need me to play," Maroney said. "I'm a team player. As long as we win, I'm all right."
"In this game, you just have to be patient," he said. "I'm going to be patient."