To put it mildly, Antonio Brown was a headache at his last two pit stops.
The star wide receiver effectively forced his way out of Pittsburgh, and he took it to the next level in his encore performance in Oakland. Brown ultimately never played a single regular-season snap for the Raiders, but his tenure with the Silver and Black won’t soon be forgotten following a wild six months that included everything from frost-bitten feet to a leaked phone call with Jon Gruden.
Brown now finds himself with the New England Patriots, who officially added the seven-time Pro Bowl selection to their 53-man roster Monday. While there are reasons to believe AB will pull similar nonsensical stunts in Foxboro, Stephen A. Smith thinks Brown will manage to stay on the straight and narrow by understanding the magnitude of the opportunity.
“The reason I say I am is because he has everything to lose. He has some to gain in terms of being on the New England Patriots, competing for a Super Bowl championship in all likelihood, winning a Super Bowl championship,” Smith said Tuesday on ESPN’s “First Take. “But he has everything to lose because of the clownish, buffoonish way in which he elected to conduct himself over the last several weeks in an effort to get himself out of town. Out of Oakland, a team giving him $30 million in guaranteed dollars, had given him long-term security, that didn’t create any problems with his feet or his helmet — those were issues with the NFL. Not him, or the feet issue was his own and for him to still do the things that he did: taping conversations secretly, revealing private text messages, emails, that kind of thing. Calling people names, doing all the things that he was doing. He’s a universal pariah at this particular moment in time.
“Now, New England will cheer him catching touchdowns. They will cheer his greatness on the football field. But at this particular juncture, there’s not too many people that want to have anything to do with a person that has conducted themselves in the way that he has conducted himself. I’m not going to character assassinate him and tell you that that’s him definitively, that’s who he is. But I will say the way that he’s acted over the last several weeks, if not longer, has been so reprehensible, so egregious that anybody with sense wouldn’t want anything to do with him at this particular moment in time off the field. So the only recourse he has left is to produce on the field and I think he knows that at this particular juncture. I think that when you go to New England, Bill Belichick doesn’t play that. He’s got six rings. He’s universally recognized as the greatest coach of this era, if not ever. He can afford to take this chance and not lose a damn thing because even if they lose, or even if he has to end up letting Antonio Brown go, I mean, this is the equivalent of house money. That’s what Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft are playing with.
“I’m confident because they don’t have much to worry about. All of the worry is on him.”
It’s tough to argue with anything Smith is saying. Brown will be joining a team that’s coming off a 30-point shellacking of the Steelers in primetime. By no means do Tom Brady and Co. need Brown, and the organization likely won’t hesitate to part ways with him if he acts out.
That said, Brown has the chance to completely reshape his image in New England. Should he perform at a high level all while being a model citizen, Brown, who’s on a one-year contract with the Patriots that has a team option for 2020, will put himself in great position to eventually cash in on a lucrative, long-term deal. And from an on-field success perspective, this very well could be the 31-year-old’s best opportunity to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
The AB-Patriots experiment is expected to begin Sunday when New England visits the Miami Dolphins for a Week 2 contest.