Welcome to the Patriot Circus. Again.
This is the franchise that wins more Super Bowls than any other in the National Football League but it's also the team that can't avoid the unintended spotlight.
Spygate. Aaron Hernandez. Deflategate. Brady vs. Belichick?
Go right on down the line. In this glorious, Lombardi Trophy-winning era, the Patriots have won like no one else. They've also perfected how to juggle a circus-like atmosphere.
The big top was back in town Wednesday, thanks to the signing of one Antonio Brown. The NFL world knew the Patriots were taking on a problem-child when they brought the All-Pro wide receiver on board last Saturday but no one could've predicted the bombshell that dropped on Tuesday night.
A former college friend and personal trainer of Brown's says he sexually assaulted her on three separate instances. Britney Taylor filed a civil lawsuit in South Florida that contains details that are, to say the least, troubling. Within minutes Brown's attorney denied the allegations and said that his client and Taylor did engage in a consensual sexual relationship for several years.
Needless to say this news sent local and national media – not to mention fans of the Super Bowl champions – into a frenzy and sparked waves of questions.
Did Belichick know this suit was coming when the team signed Brown? Could Brown be suspended or placed on the NFL's exempt list, keeping him on the sidelines with pay? Is Brown still welcome at Tom Brady's guest house? Will Brown play Sunday in Miami? Should the Pats cut and run on Brown right now?
Welcome to the Patriot Circus.
A dozen TV cameras filled the Patriots media room for Belichick's scheduled 11:45 a.m. press briefing. After mumbling a few things about a "very good group of skilled players offensively," on the Dolphins who happened to lose 59-10 in their season-opener, Belichick tried to cut things off at the pass concerning Brown.
"Both Antonio and his representatives have made statements, so I'm not going to be expanding on any of those. They are what they are," he said. "We've looked into the situation, we're taking it very seriously all the way through the organization. I'm sure there are questions but I'm not going to be entering into the discussion about that today."
That attempt at clarity was met with rapid-fire questions from the media that would make President Trump blush. As per usual, the coach held his ground and offered no further insight, saying "I'm not going to be expanding on the statement that I've already given" and "when we know more we'll say more."
After continued questions about Brown, Belichick asked "anything else on Miami? Any other questions?"
Then he exited, stage left. Shockingly, no scribe interrupted and asked about the Dolphins' kicking game.
Minutes later Brown's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, appeared on ESPN and offered some snippets of information. He said he and Brown "had been unfortunately anticipating this situation," but later wouldn't say whether the case came up in negotiations with Belichick and the Pats.
"I wouldn't be doing this interview if I didn't believe Antonio. These allegations are false. He denies every one of them," Rosenhaus said. "I am very confident that his legal team has facts that will prove this."
Then the never-shy Rosenhaus doubled down and insisted "this is a money grab. In my opinion this is a money grab."
At one o'clock nearly 100 media members scrambled out to the Patriots practice field. There, wearing No. 1, they found Brown. He jogged with his new teammates for close to five minutes before the media horde was quickly ushered away.
The team's locker room opened for 45 minutes after practice. Nearly every player who spoke was asked about the addition of Brown. Most danced around the questions, including Brady.
What's clear is this edition of the Patriot Circus is redefining the word distraction. These Patriots are seemingly incapable of a drama-free season. The question is why? Even before the Pats signed Brown they were favorites to win another Super Bowl. They certainly looked the part in last Sunday's season opening, 33-3 thrashing of the Steelers.
The Patriots signed Brown a little more than 24 hours before that win. If they didn't know about a pending lawsuit, it's only fair to cut them some slack. Belichick covets good football players and a healthy, head-on-straight Brown is as good as it gets and worth the gamble.
But if Brown and his agent saw this one coming, why didn't the Pats? Either Brown or Rosenhaus didn't give the Patriots a heads-up or Belichick knew of the chance for a bombshell and took a giant leap anyways.
We'll see how this one plays out. Brown has made major news virtually every other day for a week now. If he's not talking smack to his general manager, he's taping private phone calls with his coach. Now the 31-year old with five children is being sued for sexual assault claims from only last year.
When Brown left Oakland last week, several of his teammates claimed they were "tired of the drama," he brought to the team. We'll see how long it takes for the Patriots to tire of the circus in Foxborough.