Josh Gordon

Antonio Brown's swift release highlights true nature of 'Patriot Way'

Antonio Brown's swift release highlights true nature of 'Patriot Way'

In the end, Antonio Brown couldn't get out of his own way. Couldn't keep his head down and his name out of the news. Couldn't become invisible Monday-Saturday in Foxboro.

Instead, Brown was ever-present even while being kept away from the local media save for a quick, four-question session Thursday. As a result, the Patriots cut the mercurial wide receiver Friday.

Maybe the memo got lost.

When Brown signed on with the Patriots 11 days ago after detonating his relationship with the Raiders mostly via Instagram, most people saw the rich getting richer. They saw Bill Belichick and Tom Brady getting a receiver at the height of his powers who surely would fit in and take to "The Patriot Way" immediately. 

That never happened, and Brown has only himself to blame.

After the Patriots elected to play Brown in their Week 2 thumping of the Dolphins despite the sexual assault lawsuit that was filed the day he signed with New England, most thought Belichick was prepared to ignore the noise, outrage and general s--tstorm Brown creates on a daily basis because, well, he's one of the best at what he does. Holding talent and wins above all else, after all, is part of "The Patriot Way," right? Not quite.

That's how former Patriots running back Kevin Faulk once described it.

But that's not how I ever saw it. And I don't think that's how most who spend their time at 1 Patriot Place would characterize it.

Having helped cover the Patriots during my time in Boston, it just never seemed like the case. Talent and production isn't an automatic recipe for being a Patriot. You can be all-world at your position and bring it on Sundays. Brown certainly is and does. You can give the appearance that you walk the company line. He did that Thursday with his answers during his brief media session. 

That's not enough.

If you were watching Bill Belichick's press conference Friday morning as I was, you saw Brown's Patriots tenure circling the drain. I'm sure most reporters in that room felt it, too. There's a feeling in the air in Foxboro when non-football related issues own the day. An uneasy feeling permeates the walls. Things feel as if they are out of equilibrium. But order normally is restored swiftly. 

On Wednesday night, Brown sent menacing and threatening text messages to a woman who accused him of sexual misconduct, and she gave the texts to Sports Illustrated's Robert Klemko and the NFL.

When Belichick walked to the podium Friday, he already was annoyed at the barrage of questions he was about to face. None, at least in his mind, about football. Zero X's and O's inquiries. The focus was all on a player who had been in the building less than 14 days and kept taking the attention away from the team's preparation. Belichick briefly answered a few questions, then when it became clear there would be no non-Brown questions, he ended the session and stormed out.

Hours later Brown was cut and order was restored, days before the Patriots were due to pay him $5 million of his $9 million signing bonus.

Brown wasn't cut because of the ongoing NFL investigation surrounding the alleged sexual assault in 2018 or the sexual misconduct in 2017. In Patriot Land, what matters is what you do while you are a Patriot. 

Belichick wipes the slate clean once you enter the building, but the rope never is long, especially not as long as the one Jon Gruden and the Raiders were willing to give Brown. That's why he played against the Dolphins, despite the lawsuit. He wasn't a Patriot when it happened, so it doesn't concern them.

But when Brown sent menacing text messages to a woman who hadn't filed any charges or lawsuits against him, a woman who only told her story to Sports Illustrated while asking to remain anonymous, he went after her and her children as a member and representative of the Patriots.

That's a no-no.

Brown rocked the boat, forcing Belichick and his teammates to answer countless questions about his pending legal issues, mental state and work ethic. Quarterback Tom Brady was peppered with inquiries about Brown's status and actions. Brady, like everyone else in the building, just wanted to pivot back to the Jets. The focus went from football to AB and his off-field issues.

No talent is worth that headache to Belichick. He'd rather go to battle with 53 players with half Brown's talent and none of the nonsense then spend one more second fielding questions about something that doesn't involve 22 men colliding with each other for sport. 

Belichick and the Patriots can win without Brown. The four-time All-Pro receiver never was integral to their success. He was ancillary. A fun experiment. So he's gone, without so much as a second thought or hint of regret. Things at 1 Patriot Place are perfectly balanced, as all things should be.

The Patriots' are the gold standard in the NFL. The franchise every team is trying to emulate.

Most teams try to do so by accumulating talent, giving problem players carte blanche to run rampant with the promise of wins coming Sunday. Most teams are forced to do so.

The Raiders went easy on Brown, allowing him to do things his way. His talent too great to cast aside because of a headache that surely scoring touchdowns would cure. It's important to note that Brown was facing no legal issues for sexual assault while a member of the Raiders, perhaps the rope would have been shorter if his actions were more serious. We'll never know.

Still, Brown was a constant distraction to everyone from general manager Mike Mayock to the equipment manager. Brown hijacked the Raiders' preseason with his antics. They let him. They had to. Gruden and Mayock played everything perfectly, as far as teams that haven't won six Super Bowls in two decades go. The rope was long for Brown. He used all and then kept right on going.

The Patriots don't play that game. Ever.

Linebacker Dont'a Hightower once explained "The Patriot Way" as such to the Houston Chronicle.

"It is just more about the way you carry yourself, about the way you manage expectations, and know what expectations are," Hightower said. "Guys come in not knowing what it is and guys go out not being able to explain what the Patriot way is, but when you are there, you know what it is- guys buy-in."

Brown learned that when he was ejected from Belichick's life Friday. His actions were a clear breach of both "The Patriots Way" and the conduct clause in his contract. The expectation was clear and Brown missed the bar like a high-jumper tripping before take-off.

[RELATED: AB's pattern of disturbing behavior shows Raiders made right call]

From the minute those text messages came to light, Brown's time in Foxboro already had expired.

Belichick and the Patriots had to get back to their own boomin' business. The one everyone else is trying to get into.

That of winning.

Josh Gordon suspended: How 49ers' non-trade gave young receivers opportunity

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AP

Josh Gordon suspended: How 49ers' non-trade gave young receivers opportunity

Before Josh Gordon became a Patriot, 49ers GM John Lynch was on the phone with the Browns about a possible trade for the former All-Pro wide receiver.

Cleveland ultimately traded Gordon to New England for a 2019 fifth-round draft pick. His season came to an end on Thursday. 

Gordon went to Twitter Thursday morning to announce he is stepping away from football "for a bit" to focus on his mental health. 

https://twitter.com/JOSH_GORDONXII/status/1075759466065338368

Not even 15 minutes later, NFL Media's Tom Pelissero reported Gordon is facing another indefinite suspension from the NFL for violating the substance abuse policy.

That news has now been made official by the NFL. 

Gordon's latest suspension adds to his long list of bans for substance abuse. He has been suspended four times since entering the league in 2012, with three of those times coming from a positive test. Gordon missed the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons. 

The Patriots' gamble resulted in 11 games of Gordon where he totaled 720 yards and three touchdowns on 40 receptions. By comparison, the 49ers' leading receiver among wideouts is rookie Dante Pettis at 446 yards. 

This season hasn't gone as planned for the 49ers, largely due to injuries. Their leading receiver from 2017, Marquise Goodwin, has only played in 10 games this year and has 366 yards receiving, down from his 962 last year. 

Injuries to some veterans on the roster like Goodwin and Pierre Garcon, plus not bringing in another addition to the roster such as Gordon, has opened spots for Pettis and Kendrick Bourne. Head coach Kyle Shanahan has already expressed his high expectations for Pettis, who has shown promise in his last five games.

“He’s going to come back next year better or worse, and it better be better," Shanahan said on the 49ers' second-round pick. 

More than anything, Gordon's mental health is what is most important for him now and in the future. As far as the 49ers' future at the position, they have found some young options, but must target a top name in free agency or the 2019 NFL Draft.

Fantasy football waiver wire: Target Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 3

Fantasy football waiver wire: Target Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 3

Week 3 is the last week of the fantasy football season, aside from the playoffs, where every team in the league is in action. Starting in Week 4, at least two NFL teams will have the week off over the ensuing two months. 

As a result, it's not too early to start thinking about the players you'll want on your bench during that time, as well as who can give you a boost beforehand. With that in mind, here are four players to target on waivers this week in your fantasy football league, each of whom is owned in fewer than 45 percent of Yahoo and ESPN leagues.

We start with, perhaps, the hottest player in football...

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB (Owned in 23 percent of Yahoo leagues, 31.4 percent of ESPN leagues)

It's time to hop aboard the Fitzmagic Carpet if you haven't already. A week after the Harvard product lit up a top-half fantasy defense against quarterbacks from a year ago, Fitzpatrick torched the defending Super Bowl champions to the tune of 402 passing yards and four touchdowns. 

Fitzpatrick wasn't perfect, as he threw a first-quarter interception and was not as involved in the running game. Those are minor quibbles, though, as Fitzpatrick leads the NFL in passing yards and is second only to Patrick Mahomes in passing touchdowns. Even if Fitzpatrick doesn't keep the job beyond the end of Jameis Winston's three-game suspension, he's worthy of a claim ahead of going against the Steelers defense that's been on the receiving end of top-six fantasy QB performances in each of the season's first two weeks.

Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers RB (44 percent of Yahoo leagues, 42.9 percent of ESPN)

Lead back Melvin Gordon left Sunday's win against the Bills early, and Gordon owners should already have Ekeler has a cuff.  There's plenty of upside whether or not you need insurance for the Chargers running back, however.

Ekeler's posted back-to-back, double-digit fantasy weeks in PPR formats, and nearly hit it in standard formats, too, after accumulating 98 total yards against the Bills in Week 2. The Rams will offer up a stout rushing defense in Week 3, but the Raiders and Cardinals don't exactly boast dynamic rushing attacks. Don't be deterred by the matchup, or by Gordon's potential return to health, if you're hurting for flex options on your bench.

John Brown, Baltimore Ravens WR (25 percent of Yahoo leagues, 24 percent of ESPN) 

Brown surely benefitted from the Ravens' early struggles, as quarterback Joe Flacco tried to pass Baltimore out of a three-touchdown deficit. Still, he hauled in four catches for 92 yards and a touchdown on Thursday, including a 45-yard reception.

The receiver is tied for second on the Ravens in targets through two weeks of the season, and has four catches of 15-plus yards. Brown's emerging as a deep threat for Joe Flacco, and has a favorable matchup against a Broncos defense that's allowed the 12th-most passing yards this season. 

Antonio Callaway, Cleveland Browns WR (7 percent of Yahoo leagues, 3.7 percent of ESPN)

Callaway stepped up in Cleveland's first game without wide receiver Josh Gordon. He caught three passes (on four targets) for 81 yards and a touchdown, including a 47-yard reception. 

The rookie still finished behind fellow receivers Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins, as well as tight end David N'joku, in terms of targets. Gordon's departure is going to create opportunities in the Browns offense, though, and Callaway's big-play ability puts him in position to reap the rewards.