New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn’t directly answer the questions about new wide receiver Antonio Brown during his media availability today. Brown, who was accused of sexual assault in a lawsuit filed Tuesday, was supposed to make his big debut against Miami on Sunday. Belichick, true to form, offered little insight into his thinking on the situation and shed no light on the major question: did he and Patriots brass know that such a serious accusation could be coming down the pike before swooping in and offering safe landing in Foxboro?
“On Antonio’s situation, both Antonio and his representatives made statements so I’m not going to be expanding on any of those,” Belichick said. “They are what they are. We’ve looked into the situation. We’re taking it very seriously – all the way through the organization. I’m sure there’s questions but I’m not going to be entering a discussion about that today.”
It’s Belichick’s prerogative to say nothing. And perhaps the most prudent course of action right now. Words won’t speak as loudly as actions and Brown was at practice Wednesday, wearing a No. 1 jersey, learning Tom Brady’s favorite routes. But when the cantankerous coach reached into his go-to bag of tricks, it felt a little weird, as these serious real-world stories tend to do when funneled through the prism of sports.
“Yeah, we’re working on Miami,” Belichick said. “We’re working on Miami. The rest of it is … we’re working on Miami.”
This is the same famous mantra, slightly tweaked, he used to distance himself from answering for a 41-14 Week 4 loss. Some things are more important than a regular-season loss. Even if it’s a big one.
A civil accusation does not equal a conviction. There are only two people who truly know what went on between him and his former trainer. Brown is denying her claims and his representation is backing him.
Asking Belichick to impugn or standby his new man puts him in a tough spot. But the thing is, he’s not being asked about the veracity of the claims. He’s simply being asked, fairly, if the Patriots knew about the existence before the public. He can deflect all he wants, but it’s of pressing importance.
Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said something interesting during his public defending today: That he and Brown have been anticipating such a suit.
So what did New England know? What did Oakland know? And what about Pittsburgh? These are all natural queries for knowable facts. Sooner or later the truth will come out.
Here’s the point: Belichick, like most people with a job, is required to multitask. He may want to paint the picture that his team is so singularly focused on beating the Dolphins that he doesn’t have time to get into the Brown ugliness, but that’s self-serving. After all, the Pats are almost three-touchdown favorites. This is an especially easy week for the coaching staff to walk and chew gum at the same time.
It’s no shock that he hates this part of the job– but it is part of his job. He can thank whomever decided it was prudent to take a risk on Brown — which may include himself — for the tough questions. This is the beware element that buyers are so wary of when something too good to be true presents itself.