Despite the rape accusation recently leveled against Antonio Brown, the NFL will allow the Patriots wide receiver to play in Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins. But with regards to the team’s decision whether to let Brown take the field for his first game as a Patriot, Bill Belichick is being characteristically cagey.
“I’m not going to hand out a copy of the game plan here,” Belichick told reporters in a press conference Friday.
The Patriots coach said the team was still “determining” if Brown would play and, as always, will do “what’s best for the team.”
The 31-year-old star receiver was accused of rape and sexual assault in a civil lawsuit filed Tuesday by his former college classmate and trainer, Britney Taylor. The NFL says they’re investigating the allegations, but ESPN reported Friday that, at least at this stage, the league will not place Brown on the Commissioner’s Exempt List, meaning he is eligible to play Sunday in Miami.
The NFL is scheduled to meet with Taylor next week, according to ESPN. Brown has denied the allegations against him.
Belichick had no comment on the recent reports Friday, but suggested there were other reasons the team was still determining what Brown’s potential role would be Sunday. The coach said Brown had “worked hard” to acclimate himself with the team, but still had “a long way to go.”
“Obviously, he’s not familiar with our offense,” Belichick said. “The systems that he’s been in have been quite different.”
Brown played his first nine NFL seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, before signing with the Oakland Raiders for a brief, yet tumultuous, few months this offseason. The Patriots signed him on Saturday, hours after he was released by the Raiders.
Belichick said Friday that there’s “very little carryover” from the West Coast-style offense run by Raiders coach Jon Gruden and the Patriots’ offensive system.
“Not bad or good,” Belichick said, noting that Brown’s position was hardly unique. “It’s just not all going to carry over, and a similar thing in Pittsburgh. You know, he’s working hard to pick it up, and we’re working hard to get it to him.”
When asked to elaborate how the two systems differ, Belichick said there were reasons small and large, from simple differences of terminology to the core principles of each offense.
“There could be subtle differences based on different coverages or leverage that the defender plays, how we would run those routes,” he said. “So, I mean, there’s a lot of variation there. I’d say the West Coast offense has core principles. From one team to another, I think a lot of those principles would carry over. But, that’s not what we do. It’s not good or bad, it just is what it is.”
Belichick noted that the team has similarly been working to assimilate several newly acquired offensive linemen. However, for them, he said the terminology between the two offenses is conceptually the same. For Brown, who practiced twice in Foxborough this week, Belichick said the team was working to learn what he’s already familiar with and merge that knowledge with the Patriots’ offensive scheme.
“It’s called teaching,” Belichick said.
“We try to get him caught up to speed as quickly as you can,” he said of Brown. “It’s too much ground to make up in a few days, but we do the best we can and we’ll see how it goes.”