FOXBORO, Mass. — Eric Rowe isn’t particularly active on social media. Before last week, he hadn’t tweeted since April 5 and had done so just twice since Super Bowl LII in February.
But when an anonymous fan trashed Rowe in a response to an official New England Patriots tweet wishing the cornerback a happy birthday, the 26-year-old felt the need to stand up for himself. (Warning: The original tweet contains NSFW language.)
Sadly, that one particular Twitter user — whose bio reads, in part, “Eric Rowe hater” — hasn’t been the only one to spew insults at the Patriots corner in the wake of the team’s Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Rowe started that game in place of Malcolm Butler and, in turn, received a significant portion of the blame after Nick Foles torched New England’s defense for 373 passing yards and three touchdowns. Lost amid that criticism was the fact Rowe, after struggling on Philly’s opening possession, actually played reasonably well for most of the game.
Why did this one taunt set him off? Rowe explained Monday in a conversation with NESN.com.
“I wasn’t calling out a specific guy,” he said.” It’s just in general. I mean, I know as a player, you’re going to take criticism a lot, blah, blah, blah, whatever. But just to a point. I think it was on, like, a birthday post. I was like, ‘OK, come on.’
“But just in general, you’ve just got to learn how to handle that stuff. I was like, ‘You know, I’ll just say something back.’ It wasn’t specifically him. It was just in general. Obviously, they can think what they think. It doesn’t matter. But sometimes, I’m not just going to sit down here and just take shots.”
Rowe, who joined the Patriots early in the 2016 season and was part of the team that won Super Bowl LI, took a similar approach after Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman claimed in April he’d never heard of Rowe. This was his most recent tweet before last Wednesday’s:
Though he locked down Butler’s old starting job with relative ease this summer — even outplaying high-priced teammate Stephon Gilmore at times during the preseason — Rowe again came under fire from critics after he was benched during the first quarter of New England’s Week 2 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He hasn’t played since, sitting out the last three games with a groin injury. And given how well Jason McCourty has performed in his stead, there’s a good chance Rowe will not reclaim his starting spot even after he returns to the lineup.
Rowe said he has received nothing but positive feedback and encouragement from his teammates and coaches, however, which has allowed him to block out the hate he often sees online and in the media.
“In the end, that really doesn’t matter,” Rowe said. “I just care what teammates think and what the coaches think. But yeah, I take a lot of criticism. But I just see it as, I mean, shoot, even Tom Brady takes criticism. So it really doesn’t matter how well you play. The fan stuff doesn’t really matter.
“If my teammates were criticizing me and the coaches (were, too), then I’d be super worried. I’d be like, ‘Oh, man. Something’s not right.’ So as long as (the criticism isn’t coming from) my family or teammates and coaches, all the other stuff doesn’t really matter.”