The path is clear for Antonio Brown to play in Miami on Sunday.
The expectation is that Brown will not be placed on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s exempt list in advance of the Dolphins game, according to multiple reports Friday.
This was always the likeliest scenario, as it is rare for a player who has not been charged with a crime to be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list without the league first conducting an investigation.
Brown was named Tuesday in a civil lawsuit alleging he committed three acts of sexual assault against former trainer Britney Taylor between 2017 and 2018.
The NFL has made plans to investigate, but it cannot interview Taylor until next week because her wedding is taking place over the weekend.
The section of the CBA that outlines the commissioner’s exempt list says a player can be placed on the list if he has been charged with a felony or violent crime, with charges coming in the form of “an indictment by a grand jury, the filing of charges by a prosecutor, or an arraignment in a criminal court,” or if an investigation uncovers sufficient evidence to make the commissioner to believe a felony offense or violent crime was committed. Brown does not fit either qualification.
Goodell placed then-Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt on the exempt list last November when he had not been charged with a crime, but it was only after TMZ published a video showing Hunt pushing and kicking a woman in an altercation at a hotel. In that case, the video was considered strong enough evidence to warrant placing Hunt on the list.
Brown has been practicing with the Patriots since Wednesday. A Patriots duffel was in front of his locker Friday afternoon, a possible indication that Brown’s things were being packed for the trip to South Florida.
At his Friday news conference, Patriots coach Bill Belichick would not say whether Brown would play Sunday, answering only, “We’ll do what we think is best for the team.”
Belichick was asked what he has seen from Brown at practice this week.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” said Belichick. “Obviously he’s not familiar with our offense. The systems that he’s been in are quite different. [Raiders coach] Jon [Gruden] has a bit of a West Coast offense, which has very little carryover from their system to our system.
“He’s working hard to pick it up, and we’re working hard to get it to him.”
As Belichick acknowledged the difficulty of getting a player up to speed in a short amount of time, there seemed to be an indication that Brown would play, even if in a limited role.
“You go through the week like we’ve done, we’ve done different things,” said Belichick. “Now as we get to Friday, Saturday, we’ll decide what things we feel comfortable with. We may eliminate some of the things we’ve done and concentrate on a certain group, whether that’s five plays, 20 plays, I don’t know. We’ll have to decide that.
“You have to try to balance what you ask the player to do with what you think is going to happen. Sometimes that works out.”