Just days away from facing his former team, the New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers cornerback Stephon Gilmore expressed disappointment in the way he was dealt with by the Pats -- both on and off the field.
"I wasn't ready at the beginning of training camp, I'm going to be completely honest with you. The only thing [was] I just didn't like how they handled my situation with my injury," he said Wednesday during a conference call with the media. "A lot went on with that that I didn't agree with and now that I am here, I am able to do the things I need to do to get me back and be ready to where I need to be."
Gilmore suffered a quad injury in December and had surgery that same month. But there is more to it than that. Much more. As I have reported since two summers ago when the team moved money from this, the final year of his deal, into his 2020 salary, both sides knew that this would be an issue and that Gilmore was not going to play this season at his $7.5 million salary.
"It's a reason also, too, but a lot goes into it," he said. "It's not just one specific thing. At the end of the day it's a business. [The Patriots] treat it like a business and we made the best decision for each other."
That contract, however, hasn't kept Gilmore off the field in Carolina.
He made his debut Sunday and played 17 snaps, recording a game-sealing interception. So why then, is the 31-year old willing to play under the same terms that he wouldn't in New England? Would he have been playing for the Patriots instead of being traded for a 2023 sixth-round pick had the Patriots sweetened his current deal?
"I don't know that," he said. "I couldn't answer that truthfully because I'm not there. I don't know, like, if I was on that same schedule if I would've played. I'm here now. I'm playing. I feel better."
In true Gilmore fashion, he never raised his voice much above a whisper, doing his level best to not torch the relationships he formed in New England, specifically with head coach Bill Belichick.
"He is a great coach. He does everything, whatever he can do to help his team win," Gilmore said. "He taught me a lot of football and how to be a better player and how to prepare. As a coach, he helped me in a lot of ways."