Patriot Way or the highway

"It's about trying to collect a lot of good people," he said. "Having everybody in the organization on the same page, doing things in the community. I think people in America today, it's not just about money. They want to be connected to something they feel is special and when they get up every day, they look forward to coming to work. We try to create an environment here that does that.

"We're not always successful, but we give it our best shot."

But with the Patriots, more often than not, it is about the money.

A number of high-profile individuals in the organization who see their personal stock rise with the team's fortunes are forced to go elsewhere to get paid. Scott Pioli was the team's vice president of player personnel for seven seasons, then left in 2009 to become the Kansas City Chiefs' general manager.

The list of marquee players who followed Bledsoe out the door -- either by free agency, trade or release -- to continue their careers includes Lawyer Milloy, Damien Woody, Ty Law, Adam Vinatieri, Deion Branch, Willie McGinest, Asante Samuel, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, Randy Moss and, most recently, Welker.

Before the Broncos played New England in Week 12, Welker sat down with former teammate Tedy Bruschi for an ESPN interview. Bruschi asked him if he had any hard feelings toward the Patriots.

"No, not at all," Welker answered. "It's the way the business model's set up, the way things go in pro sports these days. There's no hard feelings. I understand it."

The week before the Broncos played the Patriots in November, Brady was interviewed by ESPN's Mike Tirico.

"I'm used to it at this point," Brady said of Welker's departure. "It's just the way it is. You can't sit here and whine and complain about things aren't the way they used to be, or it's different.

"It's going to be different."

Cutting bait

Milloy, a safety, was coming off his fourth Pro Bowl season in five seasons when he says the Patriots asked him to take a pay cut for 2003.

"Take it or leave it," Milloy said. "They are already seeing everybody on that roster and seeing where they need to cut back. 'How do we keep the numbers down and get a competitive roster? Hey, we love this guy, but his numbers are high.'

"Just ethically and morally, I could not look in Coach Belichick's face any more after that."

So on Sept. 2, 2003, the Patriots released Milloy. A day later, he shuffled off to Buffalo, signing on with the Bills and reuniting with Bledsoe.

"You can't help but take things personal, even though you know it's a business," said Law, sitting in the family room of his home in Rhode Island. "If anybody, in our opinion, was earning his paycheck, it was Lawyer Milloy."

After helping the Patriots win three Super Bowls in four years as a cornerback, Law was on his way out, signing with the New York Jets for the 2005 season.

"At that time, being young, a little naïve, I wore my heart on my sleeve," Law said. "I asked out at one time because I didn't feel that I needed to restructure, take a pay cut when I was at the top of my game. I was first-team All-Pro, Pro Bowler, [Pro Bowl] MVP, all that stuff. It was like, 'Why are we even having this conversation?'"

A year earlier, offensive lineman Woody, a former first-round draft choice, parted ways with the Patriots after winning a second Super Bowl.

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