The first Antonio Brown controversy is a doozy with potentially serious implications, but there’s also still a lot of information to uncover.
The Patriots wide receiver was accused of rape and sexual assault Tuesday night when his former trainer filed a civil lawsuit in Florida, alleging the incidents took place on two separate occasions in 2017 and 2018. Brown and his camp vehemently and immediately denied the allegations, and the Patriots released a statement announcing they’re letting the NFL handle the matter before proceeding.
That all of this comes in Week 2 of the NFL season — Brown’s first with the Patriots — isn’t lost on anyone. Brown hasn’t even practiced with the Patriots yet, and it’s hard to say what the next step will be. ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Wednesday joined WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” to share what he’s been told, and he seemed to think there’s a chance Brown practices with the Patriots on Wednesday. And, if Brown practices Wednesday, that might indicate he’d be in line to play Sunday when the Patriots take on the Dolphins in Miami.
“The NFL has an investigation to conduct, and I guess the Patriots are going to defer the league,” Schefter said. “I would imagine when they go out to practice, Antonio Brown would be out there. Again, it’s a fluid situation, but I’d guess he’d be out there.”
Schefter repeatedly mentioned the Patriots’ deference to the NFL, which could ultimately mean the Patriots will be business as usual until they hear otherwise.
“New England found out about it (Tuesday night). Obviously, Bill Belichick is going to make a decision about what he thinks is right, “Schefter added. “… I think with a civil lawsuit, the Patriots seem to have handed it off to the NFL. … Based off of that, I’m interpreting he’ll be out there, and if he’s out there today, you’d think he plays Sunday unless something turns up.”
Schefter also floated the possibility the NFL places Brown on the commissioner’s exempt list until the league was able to gather more information. That would allow the Patriots to still carry 53 players — not including Brown — on their roster. But even that decision might be “premature,” Schefter said.
“That’s another option here (the exempt list). In talking to some people last night about that possibility, they thought it was a bit premature, but these things can change quick and sometimes take unexpected turns.”
The NFL, Schefter pointed out, is in a weird spot. Obviously, there’s some urgency when the situation involves one of the league’s best, most high-profile and controversial players, particularly when it happens during the season. But the NFL has fumbled plenty of these situations before — most notably the Ray Rice fiasco — and would like to avoid similar instances. But, as Schefter also pointed out, the NFL is in a tough spot when there hasn’t been a police investigation in the matter.
Basically, stay tuned.