Rich Ohrnberger knew that he would be late for work, so in hopes of saving his job, the ex-Patriots offensive lineman opted for a rather unconventional strategy: Crashing his car.
On his radio program, “The Hartman & Rich O Show,” Ohrnberger recalled Bill Belichick’s demand for punctuality — and the fear that he felt one morning after oversleeping.
“I wake up, my phone died overnight, and I realize I’m waking up to the sound of birds chirping and not my alarm going off,” Ohrnberger said. “I am frantic. I don’t even bother looking at the clock, I know I’m late.”
Ohrnberger, who maintained that he wasn’t speeding — just “hustling” — finally decided to look at the time a few minutes into his drive.
“I’m five minutes to being officially late, and I’ve got a 15 minute drive ahead of me,” Ohrnberger remembered. “I’m gonna be 10 minutes late for this day. I have this sinking feeling in my stomach like, ‘I’m gonna be cut. [Belichick’s] not gonna have me on this football team come tomorrow. What do I do?’”
That’s when a stroke of genius — or perhaps stupidity, depending on your vantage point — struck Ohrnberger.
“I see a church van in front of me that’s all dinged up and it’s got the black smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe and I’m like, ‘I’m gonna hit this car,’” Ohrnberger recalled amidst laughter. “… It’s better to pay the insurance than embarrass myself by being late for a Patriots team meeting.”
And so Ohrnberger took his Chevy Tahoe and rear-ended the van. He “didn’t hit him hard,” just enough to produce a slight dent in Ohrnberger’s bumper, obtaining vital proof of the crash.
When an elderly man emerged from the van, Ohrnberger’s heart was “pounding with regret and guilt.” Ohrnberger paid off the man — whom he described as incredibly sympathetic — with cash and provided his insurance information, too.
The crash, in fact, did the trick. The Patriots checked Ohrnberger’s car and saw the dent. And even though his offensive line coach had his doubts, declaring that “that stuff doesn’t work here,” Ohrnberger kept his job, after all.
Ohrnberger played just five seasons in the NFL, though two of those came with the Patriots.