When you are sitting on a huge pile of chips, chips than include winning the AFL Championship last season, having an ageless Tom Brady looking as good or better than he did 10 years ago, having won the AFC Eastern Division so many years running that it defies logic, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, you can afford to take risks.
For the 2019 New England Patriots, the risk was bringing in Antonio Brown, who has gone from premier wide receiver to rehab project in the span of several months.
The Patriots never seem to lack for chances to take some star player turned tosser and attempt to get that player back on the straight and narrow.
They have taken flyers on similar scenarios throughout the 21st century.
With head coach Bill Belichick, his authority to hire and fire players is behind New England’s ability to take those players and return their reputations and remove the word “troubled” from the front of their names.
In Brown’s case, he doubtless saw the writing on the wall when Le’Veon Bell started looking for the money and respect he did not see coming from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Unlike some of Belichick’s other projects, trying to rehab competitors who grew weary of playing for lost causes, Brown might be the biggest challenge of a group that included Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, Albert Haynesworth and Josh Gordon.
Dillon and Moss could be dubbed successes. Both had career seasons first up with the Patriots. Haynesworth was released after six games.
The Oakland Raiders used to be the destination for those players who earned poor reputations for lack of effort, an inability to control on-field emotions and off-field shenanigans, or simply to mesh with their mates in the changing rooms.
That is where Brown ended up following the conclusion of last season, but he showed up in Oakland seemingly with no intention of making a contribution, going so far as to secretly record a conversation with Raiders’’ coach Jon Gruden and post it on social media.
Brown would be well advised to avoid such mucking around with Belichick, although if memory serves, it was not long ago that the NFL came down on the Patriots for secretly videoing other teams.
Brown’s recent debut with the Patriots against Miami was adequate, but New England was not reticent about targeting Brown and even gave him a touch on a reverse.