Trust, but verify.
The Ronald Reagan-era, Cold War quote from the former President of the United States seems appropriate right about now, considering what has transpired over the past week with your local heroes.
When rumors run rampant around, over and throughout social media; when who shows up for practice becomes more important than what happens at practice; when men-in-tights running around learning plays in a playbook and executing mere fundamentals warrants "live" network television coverage - where can one turn for some actual truth, justice and the Patriot Way?
I hate to say it, I don't want to admit it to myself. But here's the truth - we're staring straight into the darkness. The beginning of the end. Mediocrity. Irrelevance.
I can't even bring myself to saying the "L" word. But it's there. And it might not happen this year, or even the next. But the seeds are being sewn for a comeuppance that 31 other NFL teams and their fans have been waiting on for nearly two decades.
How do I know this? History tells us that all good things come to an end. All dynastic reigns throughout time, whether in our sports pages or in our history books, meet an inglorious finale.
Nothing lasts forever, and forever is knocking at the door.
How do I know this? It ain't rocket science. The best to have ever played the game at quarterback will be 41-years-old before the next season kicks off. His priorities are changing. Perhaps the best to have ever lined up at tight end has been talking about movies and wrestling in his future, and he's been bamboozled by the "fake news" phenomenon prevalent within social media today.
And the orchestrator and architect to it all, the guy who simply says, "we're onto the next one," is being openly questioned, if not directly challenged by his charges and his once-faithful subjects.
The three of them together? If you believe everything you've undoubtedly seen and heard by now, well, perhaps they're not getting along too well. Maybe they're wearing on each other. It's kind of like suffering from skin scrapes or rug burns - once the damage is done, the affected area is raw, sore to the touch. Healing time is required before normalcy returns, if at all. But you keep rubbing it, poking it, prodding it, bothering it...you're more irritated by it.
We don't have the time to give them to heal. Another season is upon us. They may not even have that time to give themselves, being on the short side of fruitful careers. Long-time NFL Films voice, the late John Facenda once intoned, "Pro football in America is a special game, a unique game. It is a rare game. The men who play it (and coach it) make it so. All of them are fearless."
What he left unsaid was, all of them are also imperious or exacting in their own way. Through no real fault of their own, through time and success and failure together, these men are human after all. They have exceptional talents and abilities, but they are also prone to their own egos, to their mistakes and ultimately, to Father Time.
"Then nothing became something, and I was born, and I wrought great havoc in the world in the time allotted to me, and I returned to nothingness." - Pearls of Eternity
It's supposed to happen every year in the NFL. Winners eventually lose, in a league set up for parity and where everyone allegedly has a chance to succeed. The Patriots have clearly been the exception to what has long been held as normal or routine. So, you can trust everything, or trust nothing that you hear or read about this process, and this team.
But trust this, through this year and the next - what you're witnessing is simply the passage of time.
We're quick to come to conclusions. Immediate response and figuring out the "why?" has always been a natural reaction to the unexpected or the hard-to-explain.
Whatever the reason or however it came about, the story of Julian Edelman's testing positive for PED's and violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing substances put a real kick into the end of normally mundane mini-camp activities last week.
Edelman took to Instagram in the aftermath to briefly explain himself. "I am very sorry. I don't know what happened. I've taken many, many tests obviously over the course of my career, and nothing like this has ever happened."
After apologizing, Edelman then said he could say no more, as the matter of a four-game suspension is currently being appealed to the league. It's a bit of an eyebrow-raiser that he apologized for something being appealed if he's innocent, but let's assume for a moment he's simply sorry for the trouble the news has caused in the first place.
That's fine. But it's not necessary.
He's 32 years old. He missed the entire season last year, recovering from a torn ACL. He wants to get back out there, wants to contribute, wants to earn his keep. And we assume/demand that he does this, post haste. Criticizing his actions or behavior here, especially before the appeal process is completed, is hypocritical.
Edelman has been a consummate team guy. Reliable, if not spectacular, just when you need him to be. He's in a hurry to get back out there and play, as best he can. Patriots' fans want him to get back out there and play, as fast as he can.
Once his appeal has been heard, and once his actual violation has been identified, he and his teammates will move on with the result. Right or wrong, however, maybe he's only done what you've wanted him to do all along?
The No-Show Sideshow
In the Misery Loves Company category, enter the Seattle Seahawks.
It won't exactly be a routine, ordinary mini-camp for the Seahawks, with all-Pro safety Earl Thomas' pronouncement that he "will not be attending the upcoming minicamp or any team activities until my contract situation is resolved."
Minicamp in Seattle is like minicamp in Foxboro or anywhere else - it's mandatory. Thomas is 29 years old, and is heading into the last year of a contract that will pay him a base salary of $8.5 million. While he missed Seattle's OTA's, missing out on a required obligation will cost him some of his cash.
But will it also cost him some of his cache, too? Holding out or threatening to hold out for a new deal, or even an extension to an old one, is a time-worn tradition for players - for anyone - who might feel as if they've earned a raise. But does it always work?
It does, and it doesn't. Kinda. Last season, a holdout worked for the LA Rams' Aaron Donald - who reported just before the season opener and played well enough to be the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. It didn't start out so well for the Steelers' Le'Veon Bell, who struggled early before regaining his legs later and he eventually earned a 1st team all-Pro honor.
The Patriots could have had a similar story unfold this year, with Rob Gronkowski's talk of retirement and other things in lieu of an adjusted or a renewed contract. But most, if not all of that was quashed when Player and Team ideally met somewhere in the middle.
Largely, the Patriots avoided any misery by looking at the bigger picture. Having Gronk's presence at camp was important enough to at least warrant having "discussions," and the matter looks to have been settled. Whether Seattle's big-picture view is a similar one, and whether Thomas' importance to his team is likewise, we'll soon find out.
John Rooke is an author and award-winning broadcaster and is entering his 26th season as the Patriots' stadium voice. Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for more than 30 years and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame and RI's Words Unlimited Hall of Fame.