The Patriots and Falcons kick off their respective preseasons tonight at the Georgia Dome, and following dinner at John Henry’s pad, the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy has a bad taste in his mouth, both from the NFL’s exhibition schedule and the Patriots’ brand of media relations.

We all know the drill too well. Exhibition football games are a consumer rip-off on par with cinema concessions. Veterans play gingerly to avoid getting hurt, and guys on the bubble bust their butts to make an impression. Coaching staffs make moves to see things that will help in the games that count. Nobody cares about winning. You can be sure the ever-paranoid Belichick won’t be showing off any trick plays tonight.

(For those who think we exaggerate the Patriots’ paranoia/self-importance, check out the Patriots’ doorstop, 500-page “media guide”; try to find out what happened to Rodney Harrison last year. Harrison’s six-page bio contains no information regarding the three knee ligaments he tore in Pittsburgh last September. It read, “placed on injured reserve (9/25/05) and Pittsburgh (9/25) Started at safety . . . collected one tackle before leaving the game in the first quarter.” This would be like reading a summary of Tony Conigliaro’s 1967 season and finding, “Hit 20 homers through Aug. 18, then spent the rest of the season on the disabled list after facing Jack Hamilton in a victory over the Angels.”)

Boston Sports Media’s Bruce Allen replies,

Baseball exhibition games are free, of course, with free beer and food at the concession stands. Wait, they’re not? I’m confused. The whole point of the article seems to be tell us that the Patriots only exist as a minor diversion from the Red Sox. Who is being paranoid and showing signs of self importance now?

Gotta love Shaughnessy pointing to the Patriots “500 page” media guide as THE example of their paranoia/self importance. Hey Dan, the Red Sox media guide is 663 pages.