Adalius Thomaswas neither on the injury report this past week, nor on the field for Sunday's 59-0 blowout victory in the snow over Tennessee. Furthermore, the multi-million-dollar linebacker wasn't even dressed for the game, having been placed on the inactive list prior to kickoff.
The bizarre move left many observers nonplussed. Did Thomas suffer some sort of freak injury before the game, similar to what happened to cornerback Jonathan Wilhite a few weeks ago? Was he a healthy scratch from the lineup? Was his demotion meant to serve as some sort of tacit wake-up call to perform at a higher level?
And what, if anything, does his absence from yesterday's game say about his future with the Patriots?
"I don't know. It was one game," head coach Bill Belichickanswered during a conference call with reporters Monday. "We'll evaluate it this coming week against Tampa like we always do. This week's different from last week.
"I've said many times, I think he's a good football player. He's versatile. He's made some big plays for us and he's done a lot of different jobs and we have a lot of confidence in him. If that wasn't the case then he wouldn't be here. I'm glad we have him. I think he can help us, I think will help us and he has helped us and I feel that way about our other players as well."
Sentiments echoed by Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserioduring his Monday conference call.
"Every player that's on our club, we have them on our team and our expectation is that they're going to go out there and perform well, given their opportunities," said Caserio. "I think AD [Thomas] has played well for us. He's had a number of games that he's helped us win."
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees, also on a conference call with the media Monday, insisted that personnel decisions – even ones as controversial as Thomas' – are made on a routine basis from week to week.
"That's just something that's part of every week," Pees stated. "We look at who can give us the best chance at their position or at the positions and Bill certainly looks at it from an overall team standpoint too. You can only take 45 players. That's just something that happens."
Pees added that he did not feel that there is anything Thomas cannot do at the moment to perform at the level that's expected of him. Which only makes his deactivation even more puzzling.
During the game Sunday versus the Titans, speculation began circulating through the press box that perhaps, with the NFL trading deadline looming on Tuesday, Thomas was inactive because he is on the trading block.
Caserio was asked if New England is considering making any trades prior to tomorrow's deadline. He replied, in general terms, "At this point we've had different discussions at different points. Spoke with a few teams last week. Some teams have called us, so, I would say for this time of the year the conversations have been somewhat normal."
Another question remains: Will Thomas continue to be a Patriot, and if so, will he suit up this Sunday when the Pats play winless Tampa Bay in London? Caserio was noncommittal.
"He's been a good player for us and we're happy he's on our club. We'll prepare this week for Tampa Bay and we'll see how it goes."