Callahan: Bill Belichick is hurting his own fight to keep the Patriots locker room

A day before taking off for Germany, Bill Belichick admitted he doesn’t speak the native tongue.

Not a word, not a phrase.

Considering the state of the Patriots, maybe Belichick should start here: Nun haben wir den Salat.

The literal translation goes, “Now we have the salad.” But Germans will tell you its true meaning is closer to: “We’re in deep (expletive).”

That is exactly where Belichick finds himself just one month after trading for J.C. Jackson, who is not expected to travel with the team overseas for Sunday’s game against the Colts. Belichick reacquired Jackson to stabilize his secondary after early-season injuries decimated the Pats’ cornerback depth. Instead, he imploded.

In must-win games the past two weeks, he allowed six catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns. One team source explained Jackson’s stateside timeout with one word, “dependability,” referring to how Jackson has long lacked in that department. The source could have used another word: culture.

Because in a lost season, like the 2-7 slog Belichick is currently dragging the Patriots through, that’s all coaches can fight for; the habits of their players, assistants and staff; their ability to keep everyone in line, maintain belief and accountability.

Jackson and fellow cornerback Jack Jones, who according to ESPN also missed curfew, were demoted to start Sunday’s loss to Washington. Little-known backup Shaun Wade started in their place, then took a single snap after Jackson saw the field. Asked whether Jackson and Jones had been benched, Belichick lied in his post-game press conference.

Flat-out fibbed.

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Now, if that’s because Belichick doesn’t want to feed players to the mob? Fine.

Or maybe he prefers to keep internal discipline in-house? Cool.

Or it’s none of the media’s business or even fans’, even as they face price hikes on one of the NFL’s top-5 most expensive tickets? Whatever.

These are long-standing media policies in Foxboro. But by declining to hide behind a nebulous “team matter,” or offer any variation of “no comment,” Belichick forced his veteran leaders to answer for their boneheaded teammates.

To co-sign on his lie. To confront the fact that after they had abided, they had bought in and they had shown up on time, Belichick gave cover to two players who didn’t. To a couple hammerheads who arguably didn’t even deserve cover.

Remember how we spent the summer?

Studying up on Massachusetts gun law after Jones’ arrest at Logan airport for carrying loaded firearms and large-capacity magazines through TSA. The Patriots stood by Jones for months until his case was resolved in early September. But after all that, and falling in last year’s draft due to character concerns and finishing last season on the suspended list and storming out of a training camp practice this summer, Jones couldn’t get through half a season before violating team rules again.

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This is the type of player Belichick has empowered in an increasingly fragile locker room. But hey, at least he can travel.

After the news broke Wednesday, Patriots radio color analyst and 98.5 The Sports Hub midday host Scott Zolak called for Jackson to be cut for being unavailable. I can’t get there, but then again I described the trade for Jackson as a no-brainer just last month.

It was a trade the then 1-3 Patriots had to make, I argued, given the Chargers’ willingness to eat virtually all the guaranteed money left on his deal and his history in New England. What did they stand to lose? I missed one catch: Jackson is too often the no-brainer.

He is a habitual line-stepper, to put it kindly. In 2018, Jackson went undrafted after narrowly dodging felony charges in college for home invasion with a deadly weapon and one count of burglary of an occupied dwelling. After getting traded to New England last month, Jackson’s first stop wasn’t the team facility. It was Attleboro District Court to settle an arrest warrant that had been issued after he was cited for reckless driving and speeding in 2020.

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Three weeks later, Jackson allowed his first touchdown at Miami because he was distracted by a play-action fake while Tyreek Hill, the most dangerous man in the NFL, stood across the line and ran right by him. Of course, play corner long enough in the NFL, and long touchdowns happen. But culture doesn’t just happen.

By punishing Jackson, Belichick is making a play to keep it intact, to keep his locker room together. Except the news of Jackson’s timeout leaked after Belichick delivered his morning press conference, which again left his leaders to answer for his decision.

“I’m not sure. I don’t make those decisions or really know much about it. But I think the biggest thing is being committed to the team,” Pats center and captain David Andrews said. “That’s always something I’ve tried to preach and live by: the team comes first.”

Enjoy Germany, Bill.

Watch out for the salad.

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