NFL seems determined to keep Antonio Brown sidelined


Antonio Brown was reduced last week to standing in Robert Kraft’s driveway with a boombox over his head, pleading to be welcomed back.

The ending for AB doesn’t figure to be as happy as it was for John Cusack’s “Say Anything” character.

It isn’t Kraft – who was strafed by Brown with embarrassing tweets on the Sunday after his release – that put Brown on ice. It’s the NFL which has quietly put Brown’s playing future in a box on a shelf in a locked closet.

When Brown was released by the Patriots, the NFL released a statement as well.

“Antonio Brown was released today by the New England Patriots and is currently an unrestricted free agent. Our office is presently investigating multiple allegations, some of which are the subject of pending litigation. We have as yet made no findings regarding these issues. The investigation is ongoing and will be pursued vigorously and expeditiously. As long as Mr. Brown is a free agent, placement on the Commissioner’s exempt list is not appropriate. If he is signed by a club, such placement may become appropriate at any time depending on the status of the investigation. Upon the conclusion of the investigation, he may also be subject to discipline if the investigation finds that he has violated the law or league policies.”

In essence, he’s on ice. Any team that looks at its roster and figures this player that’s left destruction in his wake in three cities over nine months is a good fit has to also realize the threat levied by the NFL is real.

In order for Brown to return and hijack everyone’s attention, the NFL has to finish its investigation. And – with Brown having cost three franchises (and their ownership) lotsa money, lotsa headaches and lotsa embarrassment – they will be in no hurry to do so.

The NFL still hasn’t interviewed Brown for his version of events relative to allegations made by Britney Taylor. And it’s not like Brown interviews well anyway.

So they can let him dangle while Brown pleads to be let back in.

It’s ingenious, really. Because if they conclude the investigation and Brown remains unsigned despite the fact every damn head coach, quarterback and personnel man in the league would gladly embrace him, that brings up the C-word owners hate to hear. Collusion.

Soon after Brown’s suspension, Charles Robinson wrote a piece for Yahoo in which a league executive told him this: “That’s [commissioner Roger] Goodell saying, ‘Don’t sign Antonio Brown. And if you do, we’re going to put him on the [exempt] list anyway.’ I don’t know that anyone is really interested in him at this point with all this stuff going on, but that [statement] has got to make you think twice when you might be signing him and taking the heat for it and then he’s not even available to play for you. Why go through that?”

Since the Patriots cut him, Brown’s sporadic screams for attention are still well-chronicled. But they are mere curiosities. They have no more impact than a bird flying into a window. You notice it. Shake your head. And return to what you’re doing.

For Brown to get back in the league in 2019 it’s going to take way more than trying to talk Instagram “sense” to the Patriots.

As SI’s Michael McCann noted, “If Antonio Brown wants to resolve his off-field issues, he'll need to reach financial settlement agreements with everyone who is suing him or who could sue him, and get them to sign non-disclosures so they don't talk to NFL. Had he done so before, he might still be a NE Patriot.”

He’s not going to do that. And that means the NFL will have no urgency to finish its investigation which – almost inevitably – will yield enough for them to conclude Brown belongs on the exempt list at the least, suspended at the most.

We’ll dutifully keep taking the bait every time Brown posts though. Because, just as Brown is standing in Kraft’s driveway with a boombox over his head, so is the media standing in Brown’s driveway in the same posture, just begging him to give us something to cover.

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