Antonio Brown’s Patriots Debut Is Business as Usual

Five days after a woman who was once his trainer filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of Florida accusing him of sexual assault and rape, receiver Antonio Brown made his debut for New England in a 43-0 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

He caught four passes, one for a 20-yard touchdown, receiving a hug from quarterback Tom Brady and enthusiastic congratulations from teammates. Patriots fans cheered fervently. For the Patriots, legal questions were subjugated in a pursuit of victory against an overmatched opponent.

Asked how he weighed the decision to play Brown, Bill Belichick, the Patriots’ coach, said: “I’ll talk about the game; I’ve already commented on that. I’m not going to say any more.”

Brown left the New England dressing room before the news media were permitted inside.

Asked if he had any conflicted feelings about whether Brown should have played, Brady said: “I don’t make any of those decisions. I just show up and play and do my job.”

Whether Brady and Brown will continue to play together this season remains uncertain. The N.F.L. is expected to interview Brown’s accuser as soon as Monday. Commissioner Roger Goodell could suspend Brown with pay if he believes “the circumstances and evidence warrant doing so,” according to the N.F.L. Player Personnel Policy.

Brown, 31, has denied any wrongdoing and threatened to countersue. Last week, the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office issued a statement saying there were “no prior police investigative contacts regarding these allegations or these individuals.” ESPN reported Sunday that Brown declined an offer to settle the case for a payment of $2 million.

Last Tuesday, the woman, who met Brown about a decade ago when both were students at Central Michigan, filed a lawsuit that described three assaults, two in June 2017 and another in May 2018. Profane messages from Brown were included as evidence in the suit.

The player’s lawyer has said that any sex between the two was consensual.

On New England’s second play on Sunday, Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowler, entered the game to a mix of boos and cheers. Brady immediately made him his preferred receiver with an 18-yard pass over the middle, a 10-yarder to the sideline and an 8-yarder on a curl pattern. Then Brown lured the Dolphins into a holding penalty, which set up the Patriots’ first touchdown, a short run.

Late in the second quarter, 20 yards from the end zone, Brown lined up in the left slot and caught a perfectly thrown fade pass from Brady to put the Patriots up, 13-0. Two Patriots fans caught Brown as he tumbled over a padded wall at the back of the end zone.

The decision to play Brown is certain to bring heightened scrutiny to the Patriots and the N.F.L. The league has been accused of being inconsistent in penalizing players in cases involving accusations of violence against women.

In 2014, the league strengthened its personal conduct policy, saying it would no longer rely only on law enforcement officials’ decisions when weighing whether to fine or suspend a player. Brown’s case appears to have made the league’s decision more complicated because it involves a civil accusation, not a criminal one.

Brown has essentially forced his way off two teams since the end of the 2018 season — the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders. Belichick has relished adding what are considered challenging players to the New England roster, a formula that has helped produce six Super Bowl titles. A looming question is whether Brown will remain eligible as the Patriots seek a seventh.

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The Patriots looked unbeatable against the Steelers. And now they add Antonio Brown.

Columnist Jerry Brewer: It’s Antonio Brown’s NFL now, and everyone else is just living in it

They dominated the Pittsburgh Steelers in a – victory Sunday evening in Foxborough, Mass., to open their season. And that was without Brown, the seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver signed Saturday after the Oakland Raiders accommodated his demand to be released. Brown was not eligible to play in this game, but could be added to the lineup for next Sunday’s game at Miami.

The Patriots, during their dynastic run, regularly have turned sluggish regular season starts into Super Bowl triumphs. This time, they looked terrific on opening night. Quarterback Tom Brady, who turned last month, was as efficient as ever. He threw three touchdown passes, two to Phillip Dorsett and one to fellow wide receiver Josh Gordon, in a -for-, -yard passing night.

Brady distributed the ball adroitly to running back James White and wideouts Gordon, Julian Edelman and Dorsett. Gordon played well after being reinstated by the NFL last month following his latest suspension under the substance abuse policy. The New England defense was without linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who was on the inactive list, reportedly because his wife went into labor. Yet the Patriots shut down the Steelers in Pittsburgh’s first game since the offseason exits of Brown, who was traded to the Raiders, and running back Le’Veon Bell, who left in free agency to sign with the New York Jets after sitting out all of last season in a contract dispute.

Now he’s a Patriot: The Antonio Brown saga, explained

The interesting thing, of course, is what happens next. Brown was in the area but was not permitted to play because he was not on the Patriots’ roster by the p.m. NFL deadline Saturday. According to NBC, Brady extended Brown an offer to stay at his house while Brown gets settled.

“Everyone comes in here and works as hard as they can to try to establish a great role,” Brady said in an on-field postgame interview with that network. “It’s about getting him up to speed. He’s obviously a great player. I’ve played against him for a long time. So we’re excited to have him and try to incorporate him the best way we can.”

Brown has been one of the NFL’s most productive wide receivers throughout his career. If things work out, he potentially could be the best wideout with whom Brady has played, maybe even better than Randy Moss.

But Brown also has become the ultimate diva wide receiver and has prompted his last two teams to accommodate his wish to leave. The Steelers traded him to the Raiders in March for third- and fifth-round draft picks after Brown became disgruntled in Pittsburgh, in part because of a clash with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Brown’s tenure with the Raiders included ailing feet, two helmet grievances against the NFL, multiple fines, a practice-field verbal confrontation with General Manager Mike Mayock, a YouTube video that appeared to contain a private phone conversation with Coach Jon Gruden and an post seeking his release.

Randy Moss’s advice for Antonio Brown: Put up or shut up’ in New England

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick has added controversial and troubled players before. The list includes Moss, Corey Dillon, Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Gordon. Belichick’s success with those moves has been mixed. With Brown, the stakes are raised considerably. Brown could frustrate Brady the way he ultimately frustrated Roethlisberger and the Steelers. He could reject the famed Patriot Way and be sent quickly packing.

Or he could tone down his act, fit in and be the absolutely dominant receiver for Brady that Moss was in , when the Patriots took an – record into the Super Bowl before being upset by the New York Giants.

The Patriots team that was on the field Sunday night didn’t appear to need any help. The night began with a celebration of last season’s Super Bowl title that included former players Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, Rob Ninkovich, Willie McGinest, Ty Law and Drew Bledsoe. Then the Patriots dismantled the Steelers. It was – at halftime and – entering the fourth quarter.

Antonio Brown and the Patriots are a match so crazy it just might work

The defense kept JuJu Smith-Schuster, who inherited Brown’s job as the Steelers’ No. receiver, and tailback James Conner, Bell’s successor at running back since last season, from doing much of anything . The Steelers’ supporting cast around Roethlisberger appeared lacking. The Patriots were as ruthless as ever. Brady played the entire game and Belichick called a timeout in the final seconds to avoid confusion that might have permitted the Steelers to score a cosmetic touchdown.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Brady told NBC. “We just want to be a lot better, I think, than we were tonight. But I thought the defense played great and gave us a lot of opportunities. We made some big plays in the passing game, which always helps. But I think we’ve got to get back to work and do a better job next week.”

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Arlo White is the voice of the Premier League on NBC. And although he’s from England, he’s a die-hard Cubs and Bears fan.

Sep. –Turns out Arlo White, the NBC Sports Group s lead Premier League soccer announcer, is a Cubs fan — and not one of those new bandwagon types, whose idea of disappointment is losing in the first round of the playoffs, mind you.

Growing up in Leicester, England, White became a Cubs fan in , when he was and his aunt and uncle took him to his first game at Wrigley Field. He s been a Bears fan even longer.

So, you can imagine how he feels about throwing out the first pitch and singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame with his aunt and uncle during the seventh inning stretch of Tuesday s Cubs-Mariners game, then attending Thursday s Bears-Packers opener.

White called Sunday s draw between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, flew to Chicago on Monday and spoke to the Tribune for a few minutes Tuesday ahead of his duties at Wrigley. The conversation has been edited for clarity.

I m so nervous, I need to talk to somebody, so this will ease my nerves a bit, White said.

I saw you posted a picture on Twitter of your first game when you were in . You were spending a couple weeks visiting your aunt and uncle, Kathleen and Bill Grady, who live in the south suburbs. Did you know much about the Cubs before they took you to Wrigley Field?

I wasn t a Cubs fan yet because I didn t know much about baseball. My aunt Kath — who s actually my dad s auntie, but they were so close in age, they re more like brother and sister — had married Bill, who s proper Irish-American Chicago stock, in the early-s. They came to the U.K. on their honeymoon in . We struck it off. They offered to bring me across in . So, I flew to Chicago alone as a -year old. I knew of the NFL at the time. I was a Bears fan because of what they had told me in .

So a Bears fan, but not yet a Cubs fan?

Baseball wasn t really and still isn t quite as popular as NFL is, although the Cubs obviously go to London next year, and the Olympic Stadium was a complete sell-out for the Yankees-Red Sox earlier this year. Both those games were a huge success, and the Cubs-Cardinals is going to be massive next year. But the NFL has the edge in terms of interest in the U.K.

The mid-s was a good time to be a Bears fan.

I actually saw the first preseason home game of the Bears. It was against the Colts. We had tickets by the Bears players tunnel, so I got a high-five from Walter Payton, Richard Dent, Dan Hampton and the Fridge William Perry, who was a huge star in the UK at the time. It was the most incredible day of my life to that point. It remains one of the most memorable days of my life. It was incredible. So it s been a Cubs-Bears love-in for the last years.

Didn t the Bears visit London just before that?

They played an exhibition at Wembley against the Cowboys at the same time I was actually here, ironically, so I missed them in the U.K. because I was in Chicago, but I was fortunate enough to see them in that preseason game.

How did you follow the Bears in England in the s?

Before the internet and satellite and cable TV, we had a one-hour program that showed the highlights from the week before. We had no way of watching live games, but I did manage to find a really, really poor medium-wave radio signal from the Armed Forces Radio Network that was broadcasting out to Germany. You could guarantee that if there was a last-second field goal to win a game, the signal would be lost and you d be listening to some Belgian folk music or something and you d have to wait a week to find the score.

It must have been a shock to the system to go from short highlight packages of American football to actual games that ran three hours.

For us in England, at the time, football hooliganism was rampant, so it was a deeply unpleasant experience as a kid to go down to soccer games. You were held in cages. There were police everywhere. It was a vile atmosphere, coins being thrown, people fighting. It was just awful. Then we saw from America the NFL, this glamorous sport, these wonderful stadiums, these incredible athletes, the gladiatorial aspects of it with the helmets and the pads. It got very popular and it remains popular to this day. But I think the opportunity was there because people were disenfranchised with their own sport of soccer at the time. Soccer in England learned an awful lot from the NFL, which is why we have the Premier League in all its glory today.

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