By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Playing for the New England Patriots is not for everybody. Just ask Cassius Marsh.
The 25-year-old defensive end spent a brief time with the Patriots at the start of the 2017 season, and as he made very clear in some recent public comments, he did not enjoy it. At all.
"They don't have fun there," Marsh told The San Francisco Chronicle about the New England Patriots. "There's nothing fun about it. There's nothing happy about it. I didn't enjoy any of my time there, you know what I'm saying? It made me for the first time in my life think about not playing football because I hated it that much."
Marsh expounded upon his thought, noting that Bill Belichick and the Patriots' coaching staff didn't properly utilize Marsh's strengths.
"They asked me to do a bunch of stuff that I had never done: covering running backs and receivers and basically almost never rushing the passer, which is what I did in playing defensive line," Marsh said.
Marsh was so frustrated with his situation that he claims he stormed into Belichick's office and let the Hall of Fame head coach know.
"I confronted [Belichick] about all the things that were going on," Marsh told the Chronicle. "I won't get into detail, but it was B.S. things they were doing. I just wasn't a fan. And so I, basically, without asking to get cut, I kind of asked to get cut. … I had confidence that I would have an opportunity elsewhere and I would take advantage of it."
Those are all some pretty strong words for a player who maybe, perhaps, arguably has not accomplished a ton in his four-year NFL career. Prior to arriving in New England, he played 37 games, starting just once, and recording 55 total tackles with three sacks and one forced fumble. In his nine games as a Patriot, he made one start, 19 tackles, and one sack, and he forced one fumble. He was a little bit better after joining the 49ers, with 11 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles in six games.
But his production and performance, at least stat-wise, was pretty much what you'd expect it to be in New England.
Nevertheless, Marsh felt like lashing out at the Patriots' way of doing business, so let's take a closer look at what Marsh said to ascribe some plausibility to the comments.
COMMENT: "They don't have fun there. There's nothing fun about it. There's nothing happy about it."
Certainly, some people might consider it to be fun to win a Super Bowl. Most of Marsh's teammates were coming off a Super Bowl win. So when they started the season 2-2, it's very likely that 1 Patriot Place was a distinctly unhappy place to be. Because losing is not fun and doesn't make anybody there happy.
COMMENT: "It made me for the first time in my life think about not playing football because I hated it that much."
Seems harsh. After all, following that 2-2 start, the Patriots put more trust in Marsh. After taking just 29 percent of the team's defensive snaps in the home loss to Carolina, Marsh was on the field for 69 percent of the team's defensive snaps in a road win in Tampa Bay. He was on the field for more than 50 percent of the team's defensive snaps in each of the following three games, including a season-high 77 percent in a Sunday Night Football victory over the Falcons. Marsh blocked a field goal in that game, but otherwise recorded zero statistics in his 44 snaps.
It's possible that the coaching staff informed him after that game that if he hoped to stick around and continue getting assignments, then he was going to have to make a play or two on defense. It's also possible that such a message was delivered in a manner that was not all that warm nor cuddly. It might have been mean.
Here, it must be noted: Marsh was coming from a team whose head coach was Pete Carroll. And going from a guy who chomps 18 sticks of gum while clapping until his hands turn raw and shouting about how great you are, to having the stoic-at-his-happiest Belichick be your coach? That's a culture shock that can't be easy to endure.
COMMENT: "They asked me to do a bunch of stuff that I had never done: covering running backs and receivers and basically almost never rushing the passer."
This one made me think of a brief conversation I had with James Harrison in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Harrison was at the end of a long playing career, in his 15th NFL season. He's likely heading to the Hall of Fame.
He had been let go by the Steelers late in the year and was quickly scooped up by the Patriots, who had no particular plan on how exactly to use him. So they asked Harrison to set the edge, they asked him to cover the flats, and they asked him to rush the passer. A veteran of Harrison's stature could have easily said no to any of those tasks. Instead Harrison accepted the assignments and actually did pretty well in all areas.
I asked Harrison if it's more fun to rush the passer. He said every snap is fun, no matter the assignment.
Now, given the way Harrison's career ended in Pittsburgh, he's not the world's greatest candidate for being the exemplary employee. And he was perhaps smelling the roses a bit more, knowing his career could have been in its final days. But still, his responses were indicative of what is often necessary for players to succeed in New England. You have to be versatile, and you have to buy in to what the coaches are asking you to do. If you don't believe that you can do it, then, well, you probably won't be able to do it.
COMMENT: "I, basically, without asking to get cut, I kind of asked to get cut."
A classic case of "You can't fire me -- I quit!!!"
COMMENT: "I confronted [Belichick] about all the things that were going on."
OK, OK, OK, enough of that. Let's get serious. Put the jokes away. Stop laughing. OK, OK, OK. All right. Let's look at it again: "I confronted [Belichick] about all the things that were going on."
Well first of all ...
That's pretty awesome, no lie. Footage of this confrontation would probably be worth paying money to see. While unfortunately we'll likely never be able to view footage of such a showdown, we can only imagine it was very brief. And Belichick might have a different recollection of things.
In any event, Marsh took just two total defensive snaps in the Patriots' victory over the Raiders in Mexico City. Two days later, the Patriots waived him. The "confrontation," such as it was, likely played a factor. But it was the performance on the field -- or lack thereof -- that likely played a much larger role.
Anyway, you can add Marsh's comments to the wild and crazy offseason of the Patriots. That's an offseason that has included the rumors of budding tension between Belichick and Tom Brady, the lasting mystery of Malcolm Butler's Super Bowl benching, Brady's and Gronkowski's absences at offseason workouts and practices, the mystifying way that America has hung on every word of Lane Johnson regarding the Patriots, and now the words of a guy who spent a few months in Foxboro and didn't enjoy it.
You'd figure that most players might have preferred being on the team that made the Super Bowl and nearly won over being on a 6-10 San Francisco squad, but as we've known for years and years and years, playing for Bill Belichick is not every player's cup of tea.
But it's worth noting that in the moment, especially after getting embarrassed by Kareem Hunt and the Chiefs in the season opener on national TV, Marsh sounded more committed to the cause.
"I'm going to start getting myself better right now," he said after the Week 1 loss. "I don't accept that [result] for one second. I'm not OK with losing, ever. I'm not OK with being beat, I want to be great. This team wants to be great, and I'll be better."
From wanting to be great to "kind of" asking to get cut, all in the span of a few months. What a wild ride.
Now let's hear more about that confrontation.
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