He may be worth the trouble, but let’s not pretend Antonio Brown isn’t a troubling distraction

Andy Hart
September 17, 2019 - 7:34 am
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Life is about weighing pros and cons to make decisions.

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Whether it’s thinking about taking a new job, buying a car or eating that leftover clam chowder that’s been in the fridge maybe just a little too long, we all weigh the pros and cons of an almost endless variety of decisions on a daily basis.

Antonio Brown’s tenure taking hold in New England is no different.

Clearly the pro side of the ledger is a simple one. Brown is a ridiculously talented, versatile, athletic, productive, hard-working football player.

With apologies to Randy Moss, Deion Branch and Julian Edelman, Brown may just be the perfect wide receiver for Tom Brady given the former Steeler star’s unique combination of skills enabling him to make plays all over the field.

Why is Brown a Patriot right now? Because he was available at the right value and because he’s that damn good.

Now we get to the negative side of the equation with Brown, weighing the cons of his arrival with the defending Super Bowl champs after a short, tumultuous tenure in Oakland.

It’s pretty simple for anyone who’s being honest – Brown brings as much of what we will call active off-field baggage with him to New England as any player in the two decades of Bill Belichick running the show in Foxborough and is, to put it simply, a massive distraction for anyone involved with the organization.

Making things worse for those around him inside Gillette Stadium is that unlike past so-called mercurial arrivals or distractions, more issues percolate to the surface surrounding Brown by the day.

The bombshell civil lawsuit by his former trainer alleging sexual assault filed one day after his contract become official with New England was one thing. Monday’s long, well-sourced Sports Illustrated story detailing Brown’s history of off-field issues and mistreatment of people around him is another.

Then there are the little things. The Instagram live video from TB12. The avoidance of the media, skipping out in Miami before reporters arrived in the locker room, thumbing his nose at NFL rules.

Call him a diva. Call him a dink. Call Brown whatever D word you want, the one description that can’t be denied is distraction.

Brown’s arrival in Foxborough brought extra work, extra thought and extra stress from top to bottom within the organization. From the Patriots PR staff working as his intermediary with the media to the person responsible for deciding whether to pump out Brown No. 17 shirts in the Patriots Pro Shop to the veteran leaders like Matthew Slater who’re forced to answer pretty serious Brown-related questions on a daily basis, Brown is an unavoidable force majeure.

In fact, Slater was asked just how much of a distraction Brown was last week and the usually prepared locker room spokesman was left at a loss for words.

“Respect that question. I really don’t feel like that’s something that I want to get into. I don’t want to really get into that, what kind of distraction this is,” Slater said.

Asked on the Ordway, Merloni and Fauria show on WEEI on Monday evening if the Patriots just had to sit back and wait for the NFL’s ongoing investigation into the allegations of the civil lawsuit to play out, Belichick had a curious response.

“We’re not involved with it,” Belichick said after deflecting the topic to preparations for the Jets.

Actually, coach, you are. You signed Brown. Regardless of what exactly you knew about the pending sexual assault allegations or when you knew it, when New England brought Brown in it became entwined with him. Two massive brands of the NFL – AB84 (now 17, apparently) and the Patriot Way – now tag-teaming to take on the football world.

As ESPN once wrote when reporting on the Patriots long term concerns regarding Malcolm Butler, when you sign a player you get everything that comes with that player, on and off the field.

With Brown, that’s a lot on both sides of the ledger.

He’s a distraction, plain and simple.

He’s also a proven playmaker, something the team and fans got a taste of Sunday afternoon in Miami.

He’s a lot like that week-old clam chowder, maybe he’s still really good and ready to be enjoyed.

Or maybe he’s just too much to digest.

Related: Antonio Brown denies latest sexual misconduct allegation