FOXBOROUGH — Eric Do strolled out of the Patriots ProShop Thursday afternoon with two new hoodies to add to his growing collection of team merchandise.
Do, a longtime fan from Holden, would have to come back to claim his third purchase of the day because it required a bit of extra work. For jerseys not readily available in the ProShop, visitors can order a customized version with the requested name and corresponding number. The production process takes about an hour but allows customers to pay $99.99 — the same price as jerseys hanging on the racks in-store — and rep any player, past or present.
So, whose jersey was Do waiting on?
He leaned back and paused.
“Antonio Brown,’’ he replied sheepishly.
Despite the sexual assault and rape allegations against the 31-year-old wideout in a recent lawsuit, the reason why Brown’s jersey is not on display at the ProShop doesn’t appear to be anything unique to his situation. The in-store quantities have to sell, so only the players in highest demand — Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Sony Michel, among others — are featured on-site. The Patriots said they do not disclose information on the jerseys sales for any player, but if the market proves to be strong enough, Brown’s jerseys presumably will soon be alongside the likes of Brady and Edelman.
The ProShop declined to comment, although both the ProShop Collection and Olympia Sports at Patriot Place said they expect to receive shipments of Brown merchandise in the coming week. Brown’s jerseys are already advertised in the online store, as are jerseys for 46 members of the current roster.
After walking around Patriot Place for 45 minutes, including a stop at the TB12 Sports Therapy Center to buy a black TB12 hat, Do returned to the ProShop and picked up his white No. 17 jersey with “Brown’’ printed atop the back.
Brown, who has sported No. 84 throughout his entire career, said in an Instagram video posted Thursday that he chose No. 17 in honor of his father, Eddie, a prolific offensive specialist in the AFL. (Veteran tight end Ben Watson, making his second stint with the Patriots, had already chosen No. 84 when Brown was acquired last week.)
“You know my dad always inspired me,’’ Brown said in the 58-second clip that spliced together highlights from his Patriots debut with footage from his dad’s career. “No. 17, you know, I’ve seen that guy make a lot of touchdowns. He dedicated his life, sacrificed his life.
“We got so much similarities, our charisma, the way we approach the field. Seeing me and seeing my dad is like seeing two identical guys. It’s kind of rare. It’s like seeing your son, but he looks more so like your brother, our mannerisms, the way we approach the game, the way we make people feel.’’
Brown’s No. 17 is Do’s fourth Patriots jersey, as he already owns Brady’s No. 12, Edelman’s No. 11, and retired tight end Rob Gronkowski’s No. 87. Do noted he had no second thoughts about his latest purchase.
“It’s a must-have,’’ Do said. “I’m worried more about playing the game.’’
Other ProShop visitors Thursday seemed to be in agreement.
“A man’s innocent until he’s proven guilty,’’ said Jamie Annatts, who will be attending his first Patriots game Sunday. “That’s the way I look at it. He’s not the first [athlete] or NFL player to be accused of such things. Until he has his day in court, if it goes there, I’m happy to support him.’’
“The allegations don’t bother me until the facts actually come out,’’ echoed Richard Hardmon of Rehoboth, Mass. “I don’t like to act based on something that could have happened, rather than know what all the facts are and then make my judgment.’’
Some seemed wary, with the hesitation primarily stemming from the possibility that Brown might not be on the roster in the near future. Brown has denied the accusations via his agent Drew Rosenhaus and legal team, while the NFL has launched an investigation, which included a 10-hour interview with Brown’s accuser Monday.
“There’s just the risk that he won’t be playing,’’ said Gregg Flynn.
For now, all signs point to Brown being active Sunday against the Jets. Speaking to the media for the first time since arriving in New England, Brown said Thursday he’s looking forward to experiencing the home crowd at Gillette Stadium.
Surely, there will be some No. 17s joining Do in stands.