The Patriots' negotiations with cornerback Asante Samuel took an acrimonious turn last night when Samuel told the NFL Network he wanted to be traded if things did not change course.
"This is to let everybody know that I'm not happy anymore and things are not going well," Samuel told reporter Adam Schefter. "At first I thought it was going well, but it's not.
"We have a difference of opinion in my value. They think I'm worth one price and the other teams think I'm worth a lot more. If a long-term deal can't be done at fair numbers for me and New England, then I want to be traded."
Samuel, 26, added that if a long-term deal is not consummated with the Patriots, and he is not traded, he would be prepared to hold out for the entire season.
When reached by the Globe last night, Samuel said he would let his comments to the NFL Network stand and declined to elaborate.
Samuel, who tied for the NFL lead with 10 interceptions in 2006, was assigned the franchise tag Feb. 16. At the time, his agent, Alonzo Shavers, said, "We don't look at it as a bad thing. This is a step in the process in working toward a long-term deal."
Asked if Samuel was prepared to stage a Deion Branch-like holdout, Shavers said that was "not our intention at all."
Yet the lack of progress in recent contract talks has apparently altered those intentions.
When reached last night, spokesman Stacey James said the Patriots had no comment.
Samuel, who has a tattoo that reads "Get Paid," told the NFL Network that the Patriots informed him they would compensate him with "an elite contract" this offseason.
The sides had been speaking in recent weeks, but by the end of last week, there were signs of a significant gap in the negotiations.
If Samuel simply signed the franchise tender, he would earn a one-year salary worth $7.79 million. While that contract would pay Samuel the average of the top five cornerbacks from 2006, it would not include the large up-front bonus money or guarantees that are often part of a new contract. Because NFL contracts are not guaranteed, the bonuses and guarantees are the most valuable part of any deal for players.
Samuel's representatives have seen two recent contracts help establish the market for cornerbacks: Nate Clements signed an eight-year package with the 49ers that included $22 million in bonuses and guarantees, and Dre' Bly inked a five-year deal with the Broncos last week that included $16 million in bonuses and guarantees.
The Patriots and Samuel's representatives had also spoken during the 2006 season. In January, Samuel told the Globe that what the Patriots offered "isn't even worth discussing. It's disappointing. You want to believe they know what you've done. So you hope for the best, but you end up feeling underappreciated. You feel disrespected, especially how they come at you with so much negative stuff. They show you such a low regard.
"I took it personally at first. You'd think I would have been around this team long enough to realize it's all about business. So I'm putting it out of my mind."
In his interview with the NFL Network yesterday, Samuel said his hope remains to reach a long-term deal with the Patriots.
"But if it doesn't get done, I'm prepared to do what's best for me and my family," he said. "It's not what I want to do, but what I have to do. They're handling their business the way they feel they have to, and I'm going to do the same."
As a franchise player, Samuel can negotiate with other teams. If he signs an offer sheet with another club, and the Patriots elect not to match it, New England would be compensated with two first-round draft choices. Because of that steep compensation, it is rare for franchise players to sign offer sheets.
"The rest of the league knows I'm worth more than New England is offering, but they're scared of that [compensation]," Samuel told the NFL Network. "But I want to get this over with bad enough that I'm willing to work with any team to get a fair long-term deal done.
"I've been patient, haven't said anything bad, haven't said anything negative. But my patience has run out. Business is business. They handled their business their way and I'm handling my business my way. I hope not, I really hope not, but it's looking more and more like it could be time to move on."
Samuel, who enters his fifth NFL season in 2007, was a fourth-round draft choice of the Patriots in 2003 out of Central Florida. He has 16 career regular-season interceptions, as well as three playoff picks, two of which were returned for touchdowns in 2006. He has played in 59 career regular-season games and 11 playoff contests.
Linebacker Tedy Bruschi had a pin removed from his previously broken right wrist in March, but the surgery shouldn't affect him for the 2007 season. The surgery was first reported by Channel 4's Steve Burton and confirmed by a league source yesterday. Burton interviewed Bruschi this week and reported that his right wrist and hand were in a wrap. Bruschi broke the scaphoid bone in his right wrist July 31 in a training camp practice. He had surgery 10 days later, missing the duration of training camp before returning to action the second week of the season. He played in 15 games last season and was credited by the coaches with a club-high 124 tackles. He began the season playing with a cast over his right wrist and never played at 100 percent.
Mike Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.