The Antonio Brown signing is NFL-transaction-wire official and, thus, Bill Belichick was willing to speak on the matter for the first time Tuesday morning.
“We’ll just take it day-by-day,” the Patriots coach said via conference call. “We haven’t practiced yet, so we’re going through information with him like we would any new player, like we did with offensive linemen last week and just take it day-by-day and see how it goes.
“Get out on the practice field and after Wednesday talk about Thursday and just go through the week and see how it goes.”
Yes, that’s exactly what everyone expected him to say. Belichick, though, did break character for one moment when pressed on what Brown has done to persuade him he won’t be as disruptive in New England as he was in Oakland and Pittsburgh.
“It’s the same thing you said about Randy Moss when we brought him in,” Belichick said.
It was a vote of confidence that sounded like it was coming from the real Belichick, not the Belichick who dryly insisted that his team would “have to see” how it goes with a player it devoted its remaining cap space to and welcomed into its locker room.
Patriots players have been more effusive in describing Brown’s potential impact on the field. Belichick’s Moss analogy was the highest public compliment he has paid the receiver since acquiring him, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was comically understated in his description of Brown’s talents.
“Antonio’s been a productive player, obviously, his whole career,” said McDaniels. “We’ve had to defend him numerous times in my time here in New England. Just an overall solid player that has done a lot of good things in our league.”
McDaniels said that Brown’s success will be determined by how quickly he can get up to speed on the system and build trust with new teammates in practice. He’ll let that process play out and said he won’t feel any pressure to get Brown targets.
“We’re going to try to throw it where we’re supposed to throw it,” said McDaniels, “and we don’t try to force the ball anywhere or to anybody because that’s not necessarily the way we do it.”
Moss had nine catches for 181 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 of the 2007 season, his first game as a Patriot. However, he had the advantage of an offseason program with the team that Brown does not.
Cannon’s status iffy
The first injury report of the week will come out Wednesday, and right tackle Marcus Cannon’s status is one to watch. Cannon fell on his shoulder in the fourth quarter of the Steelers game, left the field, and didn’t return.
McDaniels said the Patriots will prepare to play the Dolphins without him.
“Certainly, it’s going to be a big challenge,” McDaniels said. “Marcus is a good player, and we’re going to need some guys to step up and play well. And I think that’s going to be an important part of this week and our preparation going into Miami.”
According to ESPN, Cannon’s shoulder injury is not expected to be a long-term problem but could cause his to miss some time.
The question, if Cannon is out Sunday, is how the Patriots will go about replacing him. The simplest way would be for swing tackle Korey Cunningham, who was inactive Sunday, to step in at right tackle and keep the rest of the line in place. That, however, depends on Cunningham being ready to do that.
If he’s not, the Patriots could do what they did Sunday when Cannon went out — kick left guard Joe Thuney out to right tackle and use backup Jermaine Eluemunor at left guard. That requires two players be out of their usual spots instead of just one, but could happen again if Eluemunor is considered more game-ready than Cunningham.
Another option would be for center Ted Karras to move over to left guard, putting Thuney in Cannon’s spot at right tackle and having backup center James Ferentz fill in for Karras. That option feels the least likely, though, considering that Karras is expected to be the starting center this year with David Andrews on IR and needs the reps.
Next men up
Even after a win, Raiders coach Jon Gruden sounded exhausted over his part in the Brown saga. “You know, we gave it a shot,” Gruden said after beating the Broncos Monday night. “Now New England gets their turn. Good luck to them. I can’t deal with it anymore.” . . . While answering a question about Miami coach Brian Flores’s familiarity with the Patriots, McDaniels mentioned a couple of areas where he would like to see improvement over the team’s Week 1 performance. “We didn’t run the ball as well as we needed to run the ball,” said McDaniels. “We didn’t play very well in the red zone.” The Patriots ran 29 times for 99 yards, 3.4 yards per carry. Sony Michel had a particularly tough night, gaining 14 yards on 15 carries. The Patriots didn’t score touchdowns on any of their three trips in the red zone. Tom Brady’s three touchdown passes were on throws of 20, 25, and 58 yards.
Patriots defensive line coach Bret Bielema was impressed by defensive tackle Danny Shelton Sunday. “He’s worked very hard to get where he is, and hopefully the good things will continue to come to him,” Bielema said. Shelton, who lost 17 pounds in the offseason to drop to 325 at the start of OTAs, made a big stop of James Conner on third down in the second quarter. After making him inactive in some key games down the stretch last season, the coaches seem pleased with Shelton.