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

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NFL Rumors: Did Jets inspire Patriots to franchise-tag Joe Thuney?

NFL Rumors: Did Jets inspire Patriots to franchise-tag Joe Thuney?

Why are the New England Patriots paying an offensive guard nearly $15 million in 2020?

Some believe the answer involves their division rival.

Joe Thuney and the Patriots didn't agree to a long-term contract extension before Wednesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline, meaning he'll play the 2020 season on New England's $14.78 million franchise tag.

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After Wednesday's deadline passed,'s Gregg Rosenthal shared this interesting tidbit about why the Patriots may have tagged Thuney in the first place:

There is some belief that the Jets' reported interest in Thuney helped inspire Bill Belichick to keep him off the market.

For context: Reports surfaced on March 16 that the AFC East rival New York Jets were expected to pursue Thuney in unrestricted free agency, which began March 18.

Later on March 16, the Patriots announced they had placed the franchise tag on Thuney, ensuring he'd stay in New England in 2020 rather than hit free agency.

That timing could be a coincidence -- or perhaps Belichick didn't want to see another player go to a division opponent after center Ted Karras and linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts signed with the Miami Dolphins earlier in the offseason. (Belichick also has a history with New York, where he famously resigned as "HC of the NYJ" before coming to New England in 2000.)

As our Phil Perry explained Wednesday, the Patriots have plenty of rational reasons to keep Thuney beyond spiting their rival. New England also has the option of trading the 27-year-old, who earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2019 and is the team's second-highest-paid player.

But don't count out the Jets factor.

Sports Uncovered Podcast: How to listen to 'The Bill Belichick you don't know'

Sports Uncovered Podcast: How to listen to 'The Bill Belichick you don't know'

The series finale of NBC Sports' "Sports Uncovered" podcast should be of particular interest to New England Patriots fans -- or any fan who wants to know what makes the greatest football coach of all time tick.

"Sports Uncovered" concludes Thursday with an illuminating glimpse into the Bill Belichick you don't know: the guy who starts snowball fights in the Gillette Stadium parking lot and the guy whom former players have described as "really funny." (Seriously.)

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NBC Sports Boston's Tom E. Curran narrates the episode and draws on interviews from key figures of the Patriots' 20-year dynasty, from former assistant coaches Charlie Weis and Rob Ryan to ex-players Rodney Harrison, Rob Ninkovich, Martellus Bennett, Doug Flutie and more.

You can listen to this episode and the entire "Sports Uncovered" series by subscribing for free wherever you listen to podcasts.

To never miss an episode, be sure to subscribe to "Sports Uncovered" and get every episode automatically downloaded to your phone. "Sports Uncovered" is available on the MyTeams app and on every major podcasting platform: AppleGoogle PodcastiHeartStitcherSpotify, and TuneIn.

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