We saw it coming. Pretty much everyone who pays close attention to the NFL saw it coming.
The Patriots signed a sprinter after the Olympics, three weeks into training camp. And Jeff Demps chose the Pats over the Buccaneers, citing the family-based environment in New England.
With limited time to get him ready to contribute as a rookie, the Patriots had a decision to make. Would they carry on the 53-man roster someone who wasn’t ready? Or would they cut Demps and hope that neither the Bucs nor anyone else would try to break up the family by making a waivers claim before Demps could be added to the practice squad?
Faced with those options, Door Number 3 became the choice to which cynics pointed: Injured reserve. That way, the Pats could squat on Demps for the season, and spend all of the 2013 offseason getting him ready to contribute.
When Demps was injured in the preseason finale, the handwriting was on the wall. Even with a precautionary MRI that reportedly showed Demp was fine, he landed on injured reserve, done for the season.
Since the player undoubtedly won’t complain, there’s not much that can happen — even if his injury isn’t a season-long problem or if he’s not really even injured at all. The league could investigate, giving Demps an independent physical. As we understand it, that rarely happens.
And before anyone cries “no harm, no foul” because the player wants to stay in New England, keep one important point in mind. Jake Ballard also wanted to be in New York. But the Giants exposed him to waivers during the season, and the Patriots snatched him.
If Demps truly doesn’t have a season-ending injury, someone else should have had a chance to snatch him, too. Or the Patriots should have been required to keep him on the 53-man roster to keep that from happening.