When it comes to the New England Patriots, there is never a dull moment.
Amidst the ominous specter of the Antonio Brown allegations looming over Foxboro, the Patriots attempted to do what they always do on Wednesday…attend to the business at hand. That business involves preparing for an AFC East-divisional showdown with the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium at 1:00pm. The Pats would normally be looking to build on an impressive 33-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week One of the 2019 NFL Season. However, things at One Patriot Place are almost never singular in focus.
A mere few hours after reportedly learning that the Pats newest acquisition was the subject of a civil lawsuit (which accused Brown of sexual assault and rape), head coach Bill Belichick stepped to the podium inside Gillette Stadium to address the media. Belichick began by providing his opening thoughts on the Dolphins, and it should be noted that he quickly addressed the situation regarding Antonio Brown. Prior to taking questions, Belichick stated the following:
“Antonio and his representatives have made statements so I’m not going to be expanding on any of those,” Belichick said. “They are what they are. We’ve looked into the situation. We’re taking it very seriously, all the way through the organization. I’m sure there are questions but I’m not going to get into any discussion about that today.”
When beginning to field questions from reporters, it became clear that the Patriots head coach had said his fill on the subject. Belichick deflected questions regarding whether or not the Patriots had any knowledge of these allegations or the potential lawsuit. He did, however, acknowledge that Brown would be at practice on Wednesday. When asked if he would play against the Dolphins in Miami on Sunday, Belichick said, “We’re taking it one day at a time, just like we always do.” Upon the continuation of questions regarding Brown, Belichick left the podium after approximately four minutes.
Back to Business
When the day’s attention shifted to the practice fields outside Gillette Stadium, Brown was clearly visible. As Belichick had indicated, the troubled wide receiver attended his first practice as a member of the New England Patriots. He wore full pads and a white jersey, adorned by the No. 1. While this number is certainly temporary, the Patriots’ official roster has yet to assign a number to Brown. His usual number, 84 (which he has previously worn with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders) is currently worn by tight end Ben Watson. Watson is currently serving a four-game suspension for a violation of the NFL’s policy on banned substances.
Brown officially signed a one-year contract with New England on Monday. Following a tumultuous preseason with the Oakland Raiders, the organization released him on Saturday. On Tuesday, TMZ, along with the New York Times, reported that Brown’s former trainer, Britney Taylor (with whom he assumedly had a previous relationship) filed a lawsuit claiming Brown sexually assaulted her on three different occasions from June 2017 through May 2018. The suit further states that one of these incidents was “forcible rape.” Through a statement made by his attorney, Darren Heitner, Brown denied the allegations and reportedly plans to countersue his accuser, implying the suit as an attempt of extortion.
At present, it is unclear whether Brown will face imminent discipline from the team, and/or the league. Given the nature of the allegations, it has been speculated that Brown could be placed on the Commissioner-Exempt List during the investigation. Should that occur, Brown would continue to be paid. However, he would be ineligible to participate in Patriots’ games or practices. According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the NFL will “give serious consideration” to putting Brown on that list.
Meanwhile, Brown’s case was assigned to a federal judge in Florida on Wednesday. Ms. Taylor is reportedly is expected to meet with the NFL next week; having informed the league that she will be getting married within the next few days.
It is definitely possible that Brown might face discipline from the NFL, sooner rather than later. However, it is always about business in Foxboro. The Patriots will continue to practice and prepare for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. Despite the clouds of uncertainty currently hanging over them, the Pats will ‘do their job’ and make every effort to ‘ignore the noise.’
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and Columnist for Full Press Coverage. He covers the New England Patriots and provides NFL editorial content. He is also the host of the Locked On Patriots podcast. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC