Thomas said after returning Thursday that he was "dumbfounded" and "can't figure out what Bill thinks or knows."
Three other players -- wide receiver Randy Moss and linebackers Gary Guyton and Derrick Burgess -- were sent away for showing up late Wednesday. All four were at practice Thursday, but the other three players declined to speak with reporters.
Thomas, a starter in nine games this season, called ahead on a snowy Wednesday morning, as players are instructed to do when they're going to be late, he said. Traffic was tied up, and he nearly got into an accident, he said. But when Thomas showed up about nine minutes late for an 8 a.m. team meeting, Belichick told him to leave.
That surprised him.
"You're told to call, and you call, you get sent home," Thomas said.
"That's not an excuse," he said, "(but) I could have been in the ditch. They really don't give a damn, honestly. As long as you ain't in the meeting, they really don't give a (expletive)."
The situation arose at a critical time for the Patriots (7-5) and could be a distraction heading into Sunday's home game against the Carolina Panthers (5-7). New England's AFC East lead is down to one game after losses in three of its last four games.
"Your focus should be on Carolina, but instead it's on this whole topic of being late," Thomas said.
Patriots players rarely question Belichick publicly, often echoing the coach's bland comments about their performances and upcoming opponents. But this isn't the first time that Thomas has been upset. Belichick didn't activate the linebacker for a 59-0 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 18 even though he was healthy.
When asked three days after that game why he was benched, Thomas said, "Ask Bill. He has all the answers."
Thomas, 32, is in the third year of a five-year contract that he signed after becoming a free agent following seven seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, for whom he had 38.5 sacks. He had 11.5 sacks the past two years but has been inconsistent this year with 27 tackles and three sacks.
"There's a lot of things that go on that you're dumbfounded by," Thomas said. "I just roll with the punches."
Thomas scoffed at the idea that Belichick sent him home Wednesday to motivate him.
"Motivation is for kindergartners. I'm not a kindergartner," Thomas said. "Sending somebody home, that's like, 'Oh, you're expelled,' and come back and make good grades. Get that (expletive) out of here. That's ridiculous."
Thomas admitted that he doesn't watch the weather report. Then, just before he changed the subject to Sunday's game, another veteran strolled by the pack of reporters surrounding him.
"Sorry, A.D.," cornerback Shawn Springs said in a high-pitched voice.
"Sorry, Shawn," Thomas responded as both laughed.
Springs, 34, joined the Patriots this year after seven seasons with the Seattle Seahawks and five with the Washington Redskins. He started four of the first five games, came off the bench in the next three and was healthy but inactive for the next four games.
Thomas said he drove to Gillette Stadium by himself Wednesday and was with another player when Belichick told both to leave. It was the first time that he was sent home for tardiness, Thomas said.
"He's the head coach," Thomas said. "He makes all the calls, and so whether you agree with it or not, you just roll with them.
"That's one thing about Mother Nature. You can't control that. You can't run people over getting to work, so there ain't nothing to really apologize (for). I didn't try to be late. (There are) cars sitting in the road, you're sitting there. It's not the Jetsons. I can't jump up and just fly. What am I supposed to do?"
So Thomas went home and watched film of the Panthers.
"I tried to be professional by letting them know that I was going to be late," Thomas said. "I just do what I'm told. I was told to go home, so that's what I did."
He was back Thursday, another day in a frustrating season for Thomas and his team.
"Real frustrating," Thomas said.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press