Josh Gordon, Patriots give Antonio Brown a warm welcome on Instagram

Josh Gordon, Patriots give Antonio Brown a warm welcome on Instagram

You know what they say: A deal isn't official until it goes on social media.

The New England Patriots finally became "social media official" with Antonio Brown on Tuesday, welcoming the star wide receiver in Twitter and Instagram posts a day after signing him to a one-year contract.

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Welcome to New England, @ab.

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Brown's teammates apparently are excited to have him, too. Just minutes after the Patriots posted on Instagram, wide receiver Josh Gordon and cornerback J.C. Jackson chimed in with comments welcoming Brown to New England.

Gordon, who used emojis to invoke Brown's "Call God" catchphrase, is another uber-talented receiver with a checkered past who has endured ups and downs since coming to New England last September.

Gordon told reporters Sunday night that Brown will need to find "his own way" to success with the Patriots, but Gordon could play a key role in helping a fellow newcomer get acclimated to his surroundings.

Brown also retweeted the Patriots' tweet and has posted several Patriots-themed graphics on Instagram since ditching the Oakland Raiders, so it sounds like he's itching to join the team for his first practice Wednesday.

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Hey NFL, how about a 'Kaepernick was right' statement?

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Hey NFL, how about a 'Kaepernick was right' statement?

The Colin Kaepernick/NFL discussion has long been difficult, confusing and lacking specific information.

Did the owners send out some type of "eff this guy" memo? Does he want to play? Do non-sports fans understand that he was a declining player who had become a backup before he began his protest? What kind of contract does he want?

But the Colin Kaepernick/kneeling discussion? Clear as day.

He wanted to bring attention to unarmed black men who posed no threat being killed by police. And as we've learned time and again, he was painfully correct. 

So in this day of statements, where is the statement from the NFL or an NFL team acknowledging that Kaepernick was right? That there didn't need to be a division regarding his peaceful protest and that there shouldn't be going forward?

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This is coming from someone whose fandom for Kaepernick began when his NFL career (seemingly) ended.

Prior to 2016, I wasn't a fan of Colin Kaepernick because I didn’t think he was that good. I didn’t like him as a high draft pick in 2011, and though I was impressed along with everyone else when he reached the Super Bowl as a first-year starter in 2012, I felt vindicated when he proved to be a middle-of-the-pack quarterback (just one season of 20 touchdowns, and it was 21), before eventually becoming a backup.

Then he sat. Then he took a knee. I obviously didn’t share his perspective or experience [see: what I look like], but I supported the point he was trying to make, even as so many were unwilling to listen. When others began following suit, I supported it and wondered whether I would join them if I were... sorry, couldn’t get through a sentence imagining myself as a professional athlete without laughing.

When he opted out of his contract after the 2016 season, I wondered what his market would be, not just because he had started a movement that had ruffled feathers with owners, advertisers and fans, but because — and here's where it gets uncomfortable — I wouldn't have been jumping to sign the guy (for football reasons) if I were a GM.
When lesser quarterbacks signed for backup jobs, it was noted that they had a job, but Kaepernick didn't. I got that, but I also understood that they were signing for peanuts, whereas Kaepernick — like any competitor would — was probably thinking, "I was drafted at the top of the second and had a couple of good years in the beginning. I'm better than these bozos and should get paid."

There were reports that he wanted $10 million a year. That was Tom Brady's cap number in 2017. Drew Brees was making $19 million. Aaron Rodgers was making $20.3 million. Ten million bucks back then for a guy who'd compete to be a starter was too much.

So every time a bad quarterback signed and I saw Twitter explode with a "come on, THIS guy over Kaepernick?" I thought the situation was being misrepresented, because the contracts weren't the same.

Then the report about the $10 million was refuted. Then, after teams showed up to a workout in 2019, Kaepernick changed the location at the last second. Both sides took shots at each other, and the ordeal was interpreted a million different ways. So little information, only speculation. 

Now it's 2020. Kaepernick still isn't in the league and nobody knows whether the guy wants to play football — and if he does, for how much.

But here's what we do know: He was right, and you can be as "meh" on him as a player as I am and still get that. There should be zero people left who misinterpret his message as a shot at the troops.

Teams don't have to sign the guy to show they understand his point. And if these teams are really trying to do whatever they can, they can start with "it took a while, but we're listening."

You saw Martellus Bennett's tweets about some of the statements we've been seeing. He thinks they're hollow and opportunistic. I'll presume there are active players who are similarly skeptical.

This would not only reach players who have taken knees and caught flak, but people like Drew Brees, whose lack of understanding this week was staggering to anyone who has followed the kneeling story even remotely closely. It would be a positive step.

The conversation around Kaepernick has been cloudy and confusing at points, but there shouldn't be any confusion remaining about why he was taking that knee.

He was right, and it's about time the league acknowledged it. 

NFL rumors: Jarrett Stidham holding workouts with Patriots wide receivers

NFL rumors: Jarrett Stidham holding workouts with Patriots wide receivers

The NFL offseason has been far from normal due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but players are still finding ways to try to prepare for the upcoming season.

There's a lot of work to do in New England following longtime quarterback Tom Brady's departure in free agency. There will be a new Patriots starting QB entering a season for the first time in almost two decades, and 2019 fourth-round draft pick Jarrett Stidham is the most likely candidate to fill that role Week 1.

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Teams have been unable to host normal rookie camps and other on-field offseason activities because of the pandemic. This has forced players to hold their own private workouts, and Stidham has taken up that challenge.

ESPN's Mike Reiss reported a few details of those workouts Friday:

On a recent day in Massachusetts, Stidham and a group of six teammates gathered at a private football field for their work, which focused intently on following social distancing guidelines.

Reiss noted, citing sources, that Stidham "has been a catalyst for the throwing sessions." He also reported that Brian Hoyer, Julian Edelman, and Gunner Olszewski are among the Patriots players who've attended these throwing sessions.

Stidham started to build chemistry with his offensive teammates as a rookie last season, and he performed quite well in training camp and the preseason. But he didn't get many reps during the regular season as Brady's backup. In fact, Stidham attempted only four passes all season. 

These workouts are an effective way for Stidham to build a strong rapport with his wide receivers.

It's a good sign that Hoyer is present at the throwing sessions, too. The veteran quarterback knows the offense well and can answer questions that Stidham and other younger teammates might have. There's also a chance he could start the season over Stidham if the Patriots prefer someone with a little more experience. 

Another encouraging sign is the presence of Edelman. He was Brady's most trusted target in the passing game, and if the Patriots are going to be successful in 2020, he needs to be just as reliable for Stidham. Edelman had one of his best statistical seasons in 2019 despite reportedly battling through multiple injuries. If healthy next season, Edelman should be a near-lock for 90-plus receptions, a milestone he's hit four times.