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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