By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — There’s been a lot of hubbub in New England over the past 36 hours or so, ever since Adam Schefter dropped the surprising tweet which said that Adrian Peterson was going on a free-agent visit with the New England Patriots.

There were visceral reactions, of course, which were to be expected. There were messages of support, too. There was debate regarding Peterson’s football abilities at age 32. There was speculation that perhaps this was a power play in negotiations with LeGarrette Blount. There were suggestions that Bill Belichick welcomed Peterson in to create a buzz as a favor to the player’s agent, Ben Dogra.

And then, of course, there’s been hooting and hollering about public comments made in the past by Jonathan and Robert Kraft, quotes that would make the duo look quite hypocritical if the team was showing real interest in a player with Peterson’s history of child abuse.

It’s been an interesting couple of days, to say the least. But in the midst of all of that, the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe suggested one reason the Patriots might have wanted Peterson to come visit their facilities. And though it’s received some attention, it probably should receive more. Because it’s kind of hilarious.

First, on Monday, Howe tweeted this:

Howe expounded upon that point in a story in the Herald:

Peterson underwent surgery for a torn meniscus last season, so it’d be advantageous for the Pats to evaluate his health for scouting purposes. Belichick has the freedom to host any player for a visit, even someone as controversial as Peterson, because he can draw valuable information for future scouting purposes. Patriots owner Robert Kraft respects the strategic element at hand there.

Why? It’s conceivable Peterson could land with the running back-needy Raiders, who were in contention for the AFC’s top seed last season before quarterback Derek Carr’s injury. If that ultimately happens, the Patriots will have a better understanding of Peterson’s chances of becoming a threat next season.

Tuesday on Toucher & Rich, Howe reiterated the point:

What do the Patriots get out of it? Well, the one example is, you just think about scouting. He’s coming off of some knee surgery, obviously. And let’s say it’s a situation where the Raiders, who need a running back, they want to go after Peterson. The Raiders were right there for the No. 1 seed last year before Derek Carr went down, so let’s say they want to go after Peterson. Belichick gets a little advanced scouting on Peterson, the knee, whether or not [Belichick] thinks that [Peterson] can be a threat on the field next year, and it kind of helps that situation.

And the fact that Peterson left New England without a deal does lend some credence to the idea that the Patriots were never seriously interested in actually signing the player.

I’m sorry, but that’s funny, the idea that Belichick — who, given his 17-year record in New England that makes him largely bulletproof to any and all media criticisms — was willing to withstand whatever PR crisis would ensue just so he could lay his peepers on Adrian Peterson’s MRIs. In another world, one where Peterson didn’t plead guilty to reckless assault on his 4-year-old son, that would be the big story that had everybody in the country yelling and screaming. There would be folks shouting “SPYGATE!” from the rooftops, and there would be panic in the NFL streets, because that dastardly Belichick had once again found a way to gain a competitive advantage.

Really, there aren’t too many coaches who could pull off such a move. Winning five Super Bowls in a 16-year period, compiling a 196-60 record in that same span — it has a way of building some cachet that needs to be flexed (both with the fanbase and the owner) every now and again. Welcoming the PR hit that accompanies an Adrian Peterson visit would certainly qualify as one of those times.

He knows he’s not going to get fired. He knows fans largely trust his football decisions. From Belichick’s perspective, there’s not a whole lot to lose, and there may be a sliver of information to be gained. And if, ultimately, that is why Belichick welcomed Peterson to Foxboro on Monday, then you can just put it down as Classic Belichick.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.


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