Patriots get their ‘team’ back following Antonio Brown release

Ryan Hannable
September 20, 2019 - 5:49 pm

FOXBOROUGH — It’s been a strange first three weeks of the season for the Patriots.

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While they’re 2-0 and have outscored their opponents 76-3 in the two games, there was a dark cloud hanging over their heads.

Antonio Brown.

From the beginning, it just didn’t seem like the team was all-in on the wide receiver given what had happened in Oakland, and more importantly the lawsuit alleging sexual assault and rape coming out just a day after he was officially signed.

Just look back at what was said in the Patriots locker room following the lawsuit coming out.

“First I’ll say I certainly don’t want to minimize the seriousness of a situation like this. Very sensitive matter and don’t want to minimize it at all,” captain Matthew Slater said. “But that being said, I certainly don’t think that I should be speaking on it or I’m qualified to speak on it because I don’t have any knowledge of the situation. 

“So I think as a leader of this team standing before you guys speaking on behalf of the team and not necessarily on behalf of myself I think that it’s important that we try to focus on doing our job as professionals this week and try to go about preparation and being ready to play a game on Sunday. But certainly I’m sensitive to this situation and what is out there.”

Added Devin McCourty: “The locker room as a whole has a job to try and prepare to play this game, but like you said, it’s serious. I don’t think anyone sits in here and doesn’t realize how serious that situation is and everything.”

Those comments from two of their captains were telling in the sense that it was clear the team was not “backing” Brown. They were only speaking basically because they had to.

Brown played in the game last Sunday against the Dolphins and caught four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. 

While some fans then spent the next five days defending him because he caught a touchdown wearing a No. 17 Patriots jersey, there were many who started to turn. Some found it hard to cheer for Brown given everything that was coming out about him and his past.

This Patriots team was one to get behind — one with a loaded defense, Tom Brady playing one of, if not his final season in New England, and also Josh Gordon, a man who genuinely seems to have turned his life around following being suspended once again at the end of last season.

This was a team to get behind.

But, then there was Brown.

Things were taken to a new level first following the game when a Sports Illustrated story had a woman, an artist, claim Brown had gone behind her with just a towel over his genitals while she was painting a picture of him in 2017. The story also included multiple cases of Brown not paying debts over the last several years.

And then Thursday night, it was revealed Brown had contacted the woman Wednesday with what she claimed were “intimidating" texts.

It got to a point where it seemed like every day something new was coming out, and it was falling on members of the organization to answer for him. Friday morning, it was the Patriots assistant coaches who met with the media as part of their monthly obligation.

The comments from long-time offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia were telling.

“I don’t care. Let’s move on,” he said when asked about Brown. “I coach the offensive line, that’s all I do.”

Based on his words, and especially tone, it was clear he really didn’t have much use for Brown.

And he likely wasn’t the only one who felt that way, either.

Even Bill Belichick, who spoke minutes afterwards, seemed to grow tired of it all. He walked off the podium following seven questions about Brown and it wasn’t necessarily because of the media asking the questions, maybe it was he was done talking about the player he had signed over a week ago and has caused a season’s worth of headaches.

“I’m happy to answer any football questions, but I'm done with the rest of it,” he said before exiting stage left.

Unlike some instances, Belichick didn’t say he was just focused on the Jets to the questions, he answered them as best he could.

Lastly, there was Tom Brady who spoke at his locker Friday afternoon instead of the media workroom, and despite getting multiple questions about Brown, he couldn’t even mention him by name. The quarterback spoke for roughly 10 minutes and did not use his name a single time.

Just a few hours later came a 36-word statement ending things all-together: "The New England Patriots are releasing Antonio Brown. We appreciate the hard work of many people over the past 11 days, but we feel that it is best to move in a different direction at this time.”  

The team will now face the Jets on Sunday and while the players certainly won’t acknowledge it, there will be a significant weight lifted off their shoulders. 

It can now go back to being a team fans want to root for, and a team players and coaches can 100 percent stand behind.

On to New York.

Related: Drew Rosenhaus releases statement following Antonio Brown release