New England's interwebs exploded with angst and outrage Monday afternoon when their new running back, Antonio Gibson, was tagged in a controversial photo on Instagram.

What was Gibson doing?  Was he caught deflating footballs?  Was he seen sneaking into a rival's stadium and recording opponents' players walking in and out of the weight room?  Or was he being accused of something even more sinister.  Something distasteful.  Something that would effectively end his relationship with Patriots nation before he'd even taken one single practice rep in Foxboro.

The former Washington Commanders running back was tagged in an Instagram post that appeared to show his future spot in the Patriots locker room.  The Patriots number displayed above the locker?  #12.

Now, any knowledgeable Patriots fan would immediately smell something fishy.  Why on God's green Earth would the Patriots self inflict that level of a wound?  They have been in a PR pit of hell for the past couple of seasons between a less than flattering documentary about the dynasty, the dismissal of Bill Belichick, and the cardinal sin of not figuring out how to keep Tom Brady happy.

The fact is that Gibson didn't post the picture of his #12 locker, he was tagged in it by someone named gabe_pats on a Patriots meme page.  That's a big difference, but that didn't stop a good number of Patriots fans from breathlessly sharing the doctored picture.

Patriots spokesman, Stacey James, says that the photo circulating on Instagam is not authentic and the Patriots "hope that it didn't trick too many people."

Do The Patriots Still Retire Numbers?

As far as retiring numbers, James says, "We certainly have tried to minimize the number of retired numbers, as we have quite a few already. The last number we retired was in 2000. But, there is no rule against retiring numbers."

Word from the Patriots locker room is that Gibson will wear the #21 when he reports to training camp this summer.  I wouldn't hold my breath for another player wearing #12 in Foxboro in our lifetime.

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