FOXBORO -- There is a way for the NFL to take any decision regarding Antonio Brown's availability out of Bill Belichick's hands. The league could place Antonio Brown on the commissioner's exempt list, which is, in effect, paid leave.
While on the commissioner's exempt list, a player is paid as if he were on the active roster, yet he does not count against his team's 53-man active roster limit. A player on the exempt list is not allowed to practice or attend games, but he is allowed to be present at the facility for meetings, to work out, and to receive treatment.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would be the one to determine whether or not Brown should be placed on the exempt list after being accused of sexual assault in a civil suit filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The Washington Post reported that league leaders planned to meet on Wednesday to discuss Brown's situation and if placing him on the exempt list would be appropriate.
The Patriots would have no authority to place Brown on the exempt list, according to the NFL Player Personnel Policy Manual.
"The Exempt List is a special player status available to clubs only in unusual circumstances," NFL.com points out, citing the league's manual. "The List includes those players who have been declared by the Commissioner to be temporarily exempt from counting within the Active List limit. Only the Commissioner has the authority to place a player on the Exempt List; clubs have no such authority, and no exemption, regardless of circumstances, is automatic.
"The Commissioner also has the authority to determine in advance whether a player's time on the Exempt List will be finite or will continue until the Commissioner deems the exemption should be lifted and the player returned to the Active List."
The league could opt to suspend Brown under the league's personal conduct policy, which does not require a criminal charge or conviction. (Brown has not been formally charged with or convicted of a crime.) But the league, especially recently, has generally opted to wait for legal proceedings to play out before suspending a player under the personal conduct policy.
Michael Vick (2009), Jonathan Vilma (2012), Adrian Peterson (2014), Greg Hardy (2014), Josh Brown (2016), Reuben Foster (2018) and Kareem Hunt (2018) have all landed on the commissioner's exempt list in recent years.
The NFL will conduct an investigation regarding the allegations against Brown, the Patriots announced in a statement late Tuesday night. The Post reported Wednesday that it is unclear whether or not the league would have a decision on whether or not Brown would be placed on the exempt list by the time the Patriots and Dolphins play their Week 2 game in Miami on Sunday afternoon.
Brown is expected to practice with the Patriots for the first time Wednesday.
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