With any organization, you have to address the elephant in the room. But you also have to send a clear message to everyone involved.
So, after the lawsuit against Antonio Brown came to light Tuesday night, I'm guessing Bill Belichick called a meeting and told his Patriots players something like this:
Look, you guys don't know the circumstances. You don't know what's going on in terms of the investigation, the allegations, everything else. You'll read a lot of things, but at the same time, this is not anything to do with you individually.
We have to deal with it as a team. And the best way to deal with it as a team is to let Antonio speak for himself and let the due process take place. We'll keep you informed, but you shouldn't be commenting on someone else's situation, because you don't know the facts or the circumstances.
Unfortunately, I've been around a lot of organizations over my 14-year career that have dealt with off-field issues.
I was in Kansas City in 2012 when Jovan Belcher committed murder-suicide. That was a much, much heavier situation.
New England Patriots
You're dealing with it not only as a friend and as a teammate, but then also the calamity of the situation with an innocent woman being killed.
One day you're sitting next to him in stretch lines, and as you drive in the next morning, your whole world is rocked by the simple fact that two people are dead, one being your teammate. In that circumstance, there's no easy way to handle it.
I was in New England in 2007 for Spygate. Comparatively speaking, that was an easy one.
We knew what was going on with Spygate. We were in football mode, and it didn't impact our day-to-day. There's so much noise on the outside -- "You're cheaters, you're this, you're that" -- but the easiest way to settle that is to go 18-0 and go to the Super Bowl. Yes, we lost, but everyone thought it was going to have major implications on the season, and it was just business as usual.
I was in Minnesota in 2014 when Adrian Peterson was suspended. In that situation, we were about to play the Patriots when his suspension came out the Friday before the game.
He was at practice all week, and then I got a phone call from the PR department saying, "Has anyone reached out to you regarding Adrian?" I said, "What are you guys talking about?" I had no clue. I was completely blindsided by it.
And it ended up being a huge story. We had every major media outlet -- I’m not just talking about sports outlets, I’m talking about CNN, Fox News, all these people -- at our facility. It was a distraction, and it was overwhelming for a lot of guys. I’m sure the coaching staff and the organization had to figure out how to best go about it with one of their franchise players.
The Patriots are in a similar situation right now with Brown. But as a player on that team, you literally sit there and say, "Well, I’ve got to get ready to do my job."
Because at the end of the day, it’s a business. It’s a job. And you’ve got to get ready to play, because Sunday is going to be here before you know it, and distractions are going to happen.
But this is one of the best things the Patriots have always done: They try to eliminate those distractions outside the stadium and just do their job. And as a player growing up in that system, that’s your mindset each and every week, no matter what happens.
If Brown is coming out to practice? Great, we’re all practicing. If he’s not, then the next guy steps up and we move forward.
Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that included stops with the New England Patriots (2005-2008), Kansas City Chiefs (2009-2012) and Minnesota Vikings (2013-2014). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on gamedays as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.
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