As far as critics are concerned – along with fans of the Steelers, Raiders and even some Patriots backers – A.B. is TNT.
Antonio Brown didn’t play a down on opening weekend but grabbed the headlines nonetheless for forcing his way out of Oakland and landing with the defending champion Patriots eight months after quitting on the Steelers.
“Seeing him catch balls from Tom Brady would be beautiful,” NBC analyst Tony Dungy said. “But he’s going to have to change if this is going to work.”
Brown’s penchant for drama followed him from Pittsburgh to Oakland, where he spent his summer recovering from frostbitten feet in a cryotherapy mishap, fighting with the league over his desire to wear an outlawed helmet, feuding with his general manager and constantly posting updates to his saga on social media.
Dungy’s cohort on “Football Night in America,” Rodney Harrison, who played in New England, said he doubts Brown can become Bill Belichick’s latest reclamation project in the mold of Randy Moss or Corey Dillon.
“When I heard about it, it didn’t surprise me,” Harrison said. “I didn’t agree with it because, as a Patriot, you have to sacrifice – you have to sacrifice finances, you have to sacrifice your stats, you have to sacrifice a lot of individual things. And that’s the one thing that Antonio Brown has shown me, that he’s not willing to sacrifice anything for anybody else besides himself.”
Dungy criticized Patriots owner Robert Kraft for rewarding a player’s bad behavior.
“I really think this sent the wrong message,” Dungy said. “I know coaches want to win, but I’m disappointed in Robert Kraft. I think at some point you say, just as an organization, ‘We are not going to do this.’”
Brown couldn’t sign until Monday, so he missed New England’s 33-3 wipeout of the Steelers, a dismantling that suggests the Patriots don’t need much help defending their latest title.
While Belichick gives newcomers a clean slate, Brown has “always been a ‘me’ guy,” Harrison said. “I’m not a big believer he’s going to come in and fit in the ‘Patriot Way.’”