According to a team statement and multiple media reports earlier this week, the New England Patriots were unaware of the allegations against Antonio Brown when they signed the wide receiver.
A report Thursday from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler shed some light on why that might have been.
From Fowler, who covers Brown’s former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, for the network:
“Representatives for New England Patriots receiver Antonio Brown and Britney Taylor were in discussions over the past few months, but agreed their communication would remain confidential until the filing of Taylor’s civil sexual assault lawsuit, sources told ESPN on Thursday.
“This, the sources say, is why the Patriots and the Oakland Raiders, who released Brown last weekend, would not have known about the matter unless there was a breach in the confidentiality of those discussions.
“Though the exact nature of the talks has not been confirmed, it is common practice for settlement talks to occur before a civil filing.”
Taylor, Brown’s former trainer, accused the wideout of sexually assaulting her on two occasions in June 2017 and forcibly raping her in May 2018. Brown and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, both strongly denied these allegations.
Taylor’s lawsuit was filed Tuesday, one day after Brown officially signed with the Patriots. Rumors of potential allegations against the seven-time Pro Bowler had circulated on social media early Saturday morning, hours before the Raiders released Brown.
It remains unclear whether Brown will face NFL discipline. He was a full participant in practice Wednesday and Thursday and currently is eligible to play in Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins if the Patriots choose to make him active.
The Patriots said in a statement Tuesday night that the NFL is investigating the situation. Taylor reportedly is scheduled to meet with league officials next week. Brown is “expected to meet with the league at some point,” as well, per Fowler’s sources.