Trying to clear up rumors of his unhappiness or simply trying to make sure the world knows that the Patriots remain Team Harmony, New England offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, in a conference call with three area newspapers, said he doesn't want to be a distraction after public comments made recently by his agent, Bob LaMonte, caused a ripple.
"Every time I turn around, I'm reading my name in the newspapers, and usually not in a favorable light," Weis said in the phone interview with the trio of writers. "And no one really asked me how I felt about the situation."
But it's not that no one tried. Late last month, a request to speak with Weis was denied. That request came after LaMonte went on the record about an inability to reach a contract extension for his client with the Patriots and what that non-agreement meant for his future with the club.
"It would be strange if [Weis] were to return after the season," LaMonte told the Providence Journal on May 19. "Given the present state of negotiations, it's highly unlikely. We tried to reach an agreement and corporately the Patriots decided against it. So for Charlie, all he can do is work as hard as he can, devote himself, and know he will not be back next year."
Weis's contract, which will reportedly pay him around $500,000 in 2004, expires at the end of the season, and LaMonte was looking to secure an extension that would bring Weis in line with the highest paid coordinators in the league.
According to an industry source, the average pay for offensive coordinators is around $500,000 while defensive coordinators make an average of around $625,000. There are currently three offensive coaches, including Dallas assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach Sean Payton, making $1 million.
"The bottom line is that I'm an offensive coordinator, not a negotiator," Weis said. "I'm not an agent, just a coach. When I signed that contract after the first Super Bowl, I thought that contract was pretty darn good and I intend to honor that contract. I'm not unhappy with the Patriots. I don't negotiate. I coach, and that's all I want to do."
"Everyone wants more money, but that's not the point. When you have a contract, until that's up, that's what you're getting paid. Am I unhappy with my contract? No. Do I want to be a distraction? No. Do I want to work to help us win? Yes. How can I be unhappy with a team that's just won two Super Bowls. Every time I turn around, others are putting words in my mouth."
But it was LaMonte, presumably speaking on Weis' behalf, that kick-started the speculation that a rift might be developing between Weis and the club when he announced that the two sides could not reach an agreement on a new pact. The natural assumption, while perhaps unfair, was that Weis was unhappy with his current deal. But no one ever stated that fact for the record.
All of that aside, the purpose of Weis reaching out to the media was to make sure there were no lingering questions regarding his commitment to the Patriots in 2004 and to ensure to the public that he remains devoted to doing his best to help the Patriots win. He wanted to express that assumptions about his unhappiness were off base.
"If I didn't set this story straight now as we're going into training camp, anytime there was a bump in the road it would be, 'Charlie didn't like this and Charlie is at odds with Bill [Belichick].' And that's not the case.
"People are saying that Bill is [upset] at me, I'm [angry] at Bill. But I'm here to say three things: I'm under contract. I understand the parameters, and I'm not an unhappy camper, contrary to popular opinion."