by Jordy McElroy
That’s how long it took for free agent receiver Antonio Brown to apologize for his scornful comments aimed in the direction of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. A long and overdue attempt at making public amends for some ugly social media posts may or may not repair the scorched bridge with the Patriots, but it does beg the question: Why now?
Brown knew he made a mistake given his decision to immediately delete the posts. Days, weeks and over a month went by without any form of public remorse shown for his actions. Nearly two months later, the apology finally came after an extended sit-down meeting with the NFL regarding the ongoing sexual assault allegations against him.
During an appearance on WEEI Radio, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported there being optimism emanating out of Brown’s camp that he’ll be able to play again this season after the meeting. With renewed hope of an opportunity to resume playing football, Brown finally took responsibility and apologized for his actions.
Aside from that perfectly placed semicolon, this might pass as a post straight from the heart of “Mr. Big Chest” himself.
There is no question Brown is angling for an opportunity to get back on the field in a Patriots uniform. Quarterback Tom Brady has been vocal regarding his frustrations with the lack of weapons on offense. Retired tight end Rob Gronkowski isn’t coming back to save the team, and Julian Edelman, a slot receiver, is Brady’s No. 1 target.
Mohamed Sanu missed practice on Wednesday with an ankle injury, and Phillip Dorsett exited last Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles with a head injury. That leaves Brady with a pair of rookie receivers in N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers behind a patchwork offensive line. The reunion starts to make sense when coupling the personnel issues with the fact that the team is working with a rapidly closing window with a 42-year-old quarterback behind center.
Brown knows the Patriots need him. Even more important, he knows Brady needs him.
Brady, along with Edelman and other Patriots players, liked Brown’s apology on social media. Of course, the decision to go ahead with the post wasn’t only aimed at re-signing with the Patriots. It was also an effort to appease things with other owners around the league that might have been miffed at him for going directly at Kraft. Make no mistake, if the NFL clears Brown to play, there will be multiple playoff contenders vying for his services.
But the elephant in the room is still the Commissioner’s Exempt List. If another team signs Brown, he would be eligible to be placed on paid suspension by the league until his court case is settled. However, the decision for the league to do so would be setting a new precedent considering they have generally stayed out of civil court cases.
Brown wasn’t arrested for anything, and there are no pending criminal charges. Civil cases can also take multiple years to be settled in the court system. So it isn’t feasible for Brown to be sidelined indefinitely before he’s given his due process. An argument could also be made that he has already served an unofficial, non-paid nine-week suspension due to the league’s ongoing investigation scaring off teams from signing him.
The cap-strapped Patriots will likely end up paying Brown his $9 million signing bonus that was reportedly withheld when the team opted to cut him back in September. It led the troubled star to another social media post back in October suggesting the organization give him an opportunity to work for the money.
Brown led all Patriots receivers with four receptions for 56 yards and one touchdown in his one-and-done game with the team. Kraft might have to see the seven-time Pro Bowler down the line at some point whether he wants to or not. Don’t think top AFC contenders like the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens aren’t closely monitoring this situation.
Being with Brown could ultimately prove better than being against him in January.