Belichick Shed a Tiny Ray of Light on the Strange Situation Involving Matt Corral Going AWOL from the Patriots

Michael Hickey. Getty Images.

In what could be, if it wasn't potentially serious, called The Curious Incident of Matt Corral in Foxboro, first the Patriots signed the former Carolina backup quarterback/project. For a while, due to some roster juggling, he was their default QB2:

Then they released him. Then over the weekend, things got curiouser:

SI - Matt Corral seemed to have a new NFL home when he landed with the New England Patriots, but now, his future in the league seems uncertain.

 FOX insider Henry McKenna recently reported that the Patriots are now "concerned" for Corral given that he showed up briefly before departing. One source told McKenna that the team wants to make sure he's stable and that what is occurring is not the result of a mental health issue.

"He just left the team, let's just make sure he's OK. I don't know if it's mental health. I just know he kind of flaked out," the source told FOX. …

Rumors surrounding Corral’s future with the Patriots began to circulate on Friday afternoon when the Ole Miss product was absent for practice. The team later confirmed, via Friday’s injury report, that Corral’s absence was “not injury related.” The Boston Herald reported on Saturday evening that Corral had left the team on Friday “without notice,” explaining his absentee designation.

And today, Belichick was asked about the situation. And as you'd expect, his answer was forthright, expansive, and filled with detail:

Which, snark aside, is exactly how you should answer any sort of question about a player's situation. State what his roster status is, as required by league rules, and leave it at that. Even in the most benign circumstances, never explain more than you have to. But especially in this case, where there are sources saying mental health could be a factor in all this. Back to the article:

The Exempt/Left Squad list allows the team to open up a roster spot without formally releasing Corral. In turn, he is unable to sign with another team until the designation has been lifted. He can, however, return to the Patriots at any time.

We all have to tread carefully here, the way the Raiders seem to be attempting to do with Chandler Jones:

What else can you do, when you hear about a guy showing up to work, then "flaking out" without explanation and concern over whether or not he's "stable." 

Like I said about Jones the other day, it wasn't all that long ago when a player behaving like this would be called a "head case" and sports radio would be filled with callers demanding they cut his ass because he's lucky to be getting paid [fill in the blank] dollars to play [insert sport here] games for a living and "I haven't had a day off in [X] years" blah, blah, blah. But that was a long public mental health crises and thousands of terrible outcomes ago. And for now these franchises are erring on the side of caution, saying as little as possible, and one would hope, taking advantages of all the resources the league and the unions have to get these guys the help they need. If any; we're not even sure that's what's at play here. 

The best case scenario is this Exempt status keeps Corral in the … corral (I can't come up with another metaphor), he takes the time he needs without eating up a roster spot, and maybe develops into the potential he showed when he was the fourth quarterback off the board (46 slots ahead of Bailey Zappe) in the 2022 draft. The worst case scenario has no place in this blog, so let's skip it and just hope this guy is in the best possible hands. Godspeed.