Two weeks before the Super Bowl, few football fans had ever heard of New England's reserve wide receiver Tiquan Underwood. After all, he barely played, only recording three catches in eight games during the regular season. A seventh-round pick by Jacksonville in the 2009 NFL Draft, Underwood was at the fringes of the Pats' squad all season. His first stint lasted just a few days as he was initially signed was signed on Aug. 29 and then cut on Sept. 3. Ultimately, the New Jersey native was released three times before getting re-signed in late November.
Despite having such a small presence on the field and leaving little evidence of his efforts on the statsheet, Underwood was unexpectedly the talk of the NFL during the night before the Super Bowl. How did this happen?
First, Underwood arrived at media day on Tuesday with a haircut that turned heads. Not only was Underwood rocking a hi-top fade while also having the Patriots' logo etched into the back of his head. That this team-first haircut raised Underwood's profile would seem but a cruel twist of fate less than 24 hours before Super Bowl XLVI. On the eve of the game, the Patriots suddenly released Underwood and signed defensive end Alex Silvestro from their practice squad.
Cold. Soulless. Cruel. Classless. That was the general perception of the move.
According to reports, the decision to cut the 24-year-old was strictly a football decision, not discipline-based. Perhaps with tight end Rob Gronkowski dealing with a high ankle sprain entering the game, the move to bring up Silvestro was for him to fill Gronk's special teams role on kick returns.
As it turned out, the Patriots didn't end up needing Silvestro. They activated veteran wideout Chad Ochocinco, who only caught one pass as New England went on to fall to the Giants, 21-17.
Underwood took the high road shortly after after getting cut, tweeting that he will only use this decision as motivation and thanking his supporters. He even wished New England luck the morning of the big game. Underwood's reaction to getting released on the eve of the biggest game of his life, seems to bolster the theory that this was a football decision made along the same lines that the decisions to release and re-sign him during the season were made.
On one level, it makes perfect sense that the Patriots, or any team, would plan for every eventuality leading up to the Super Bowl and that they would, at the very least, consider any roster moves that they would consider during the regular season. However, there is no way that any one in the New England front office would have failed to grasp the embarrassment that this would cause Underwood. Should that have been a consideration? Would the Patriots' brass have been doing a diservice to the rest of the players on the team if they'd considered Underwood's feelings? Or should they, at the very least, been certain that they were going to use Silvestro before making "Tiquan Underwood" a trending term on Saturday night.
Showing that he wasn't nearly as outraged as the sports media and fans on Twitter, Underwood actually rejoined the Patriots just two days after the Super Bowl loss. As they moved on from the loss, one of the Pats' first orders of business was to re-sign Underwood, who still got paid $44,000 just like every player on the losing Super Bowl team. If the Pats had won, Underwood would have received $88,000 and a ring as well.
Now he's back with the team. He can go to offseason workouts, voluntary or not. He will be there at the start of training camp. That is, if the Patriots don't cut him.