Patriots

Matt Cassel: How the Patriots will handle Antonio Brown saga behind the scenes

Matt Cassel: How the Patriots will handle Antonio Brown saga behind the scenes

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.

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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Agent Don Yee takes aim at the 'collegiate sports industrial complex'

Agent Don Yee takes aim at the 'collegiate sports industrial complex'

Don Yee is well known as the agent for Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Sean Payton and others.

But his longstanding effort to shine a light on the inequities of what he calls the “collegiate sports industrial complex” may wind up being as impactful on the game of football as the work he’s done with those greats.

This week, I spoke at length to Yee on our podcast about college football at a crossroads in this summer of COVID-19.

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In Yee’s view, the awakening that’s gone on among athletes as they’ve been strung along for months by the Dumb and Dumber coalition of coaches, college presidents and administrators has been building.

“It’s a situation that’s been gaining steam in my view for at least the last 10 to 12 years,” Yee said. “There’s been such a dramatic influx of money into the collegiate sports industrial complex that when you’ve got that kind of money coming in there’s just been a single-minded focus on generating more and more money and that focus unfortunately has taken over … college administrators, college presidents, athletic directors and coaches.

“They’ve actually taken their eye off the ball in that they have completely overlooked the fact that they have a labor force that isn’t being compensated,” Yee added. “In their single-minded pursuit of every single dollar they’ve forgotten about the care and concern of the athletes.”

Patriots Talk Podcast: Don Yee and the remedy for college football’s ‘industrial complex’ | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Everyone knows big-time college sports drips with hypocrisy and greed. It’s a shell game in which literally thousands of people wind up splitting the billions of dollars generated every year and the only ones that never see a legal buck of it are the players.

The pretzel logic used to justify it is laughable. The best way to enjoy the product and the games is, literally, to ignore the reality.

Yee has, over the past decade, forced people to look at it.

“Over the decades we’ve created a unique system that doesn’t exist anywhere in the developed world,” he said. “Nowhere in the developed world does this exist. Where you have a system, a small group of football players every year – there’s 130 Division I schools and among those 130 schools let’s say 50 to 60 are the most critical players to that enterprise for that particular season.

"So it’s a few thousand young men and what they do is strap on the equipment and roll out there for an increasingly long season – now as many as 14 games – and go out there and put their bodies on the line to generate substantial amounts of revenue to support the lifestyles of the administrators, the coaches, the coaches in the non-revenue sports, all the non-revenue sports programs and athletes which then – by extension – helps support the U.S. Olympic program (as a breeding ground for the athletes before becoming Olympians).

“The success of the football program also supports the very existence of the university because if the football program has success, the university can then initiate a piggybacking off the excitement and success of the football team and begin multi-billion capital campaigns to build new buildings on campus etc. So all of this is due to the efforts of a very small group of young men every single year. We tolerate it. Ultimately, we get distracted by the pom-poms and the bands.”

Yee and I discussed so much more, including whether he thinks there will be an NFL equivalent to the NBA’s G-League (yes), details on his new venture which will help teams easily find the players they now have to kick over rocks to discover (like Malcolm Butler) and how the change in college will be shepherded in by the players.

Joe Montana: Tom Brady hinted at displeasure with Patriots at Super Bowl LIV

Joe Montana: Tom Brady hinted at displeasure with Patriots at Super Bowl LIV

Joe Montana has wondered aloud how the New England Patriots could let Tom Brady get away to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Based on the conversation he had with Brady in February, though, maybe he should have seen the QB's exit coming.

During an interview Wednesday on ESPN 97.5 Houston's "Jake Asman Show," Montana revealed he talked with Brady at Super Bowl LIV and got the sense the 20-year veteran didn't like his situation.

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"I spoke to Tom while we were back at the Super Bowl," Montana said. "I don't think he was happy with the way things were progressing there and his ability to have input, and I think that was a big decision for him to make to leave there."

Our Tom E. Curran and others have reported that Brady wasn't thrilled about having less of a say in the Patriots' offensive game plan last season, especially after New England mustered just 13 points in a Wild Card Round loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Montana's recollection of his conversation with Brady -- the two QBs were part of an "NFL 100" pregame ceremony at Super Bowl LIV -- certainly lends credence to those reports and suggests Brady was ready to move on from the Patriots after 20 seasons.

It sounds like the 43-year-old quarterback picked the right destination, too: Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich apparently joked that all he has to do with Brady under center is "get out of the way."