If Patriots make it through year with Antonio Brown, that, not Super Bowls, is their greatest feat

Good luck to the New England Patriots, to Bill Belichick, to Tom Brady.

Adding Antonio Brown was a huge risk, and there is some question now whether he will even be able to play this season after his former trainer filed a civil lawsuit accusing him of sexual assault and rape. The NFL could place Brown on the commissioner’s exempt list, making him ineligible to practice or play in games.

David Carr

But if he does play and the Patriots are able to make it through this season with no incidents on the field, in practice, in meetings or the locker room, I will give them a standing ovation because that will be their greatest accomplishment, bigger than any Super Bowl they’ve won.

It’s going to be interesting because everyone saw what the Patriots did to the Pittsburgh Steelers the other night. It was no contest – 33-3. The Patriots don’t need Antonio Brown. Maybe he realizes that. Maybe that could get Antonio right. Maybe he goes in there, finds his role, and they create the ultimate team player.

But based on what we’ve seen the last six months, that’s going to be extremely difficult.

Even if Antonio decides to buy in, even if he decides to do things the Patriots’ way, it’s almost like they’ll be holding their breath every day for the rest of the season. There are going to be games where he doesn’t get but two or three targets just based on the game plan. That’s the nature of it. There were games last year Josh Gordon got two or three targets. There were games Rob Gronkowski got two or three touches. Julian Edelman had games where he had 12 targets and others where he had just five.

How is Antonio going to respond to that?

With the Pittsburgh Steelers, at least, he didn’t respond well.

Then, look at that receivers room. The Patriots have a guy in Gordon who has had a very troubled past and is trying to come back and make something of his career. By all accounts it looks like he’s doing a fantastic job. Now put Brown into that equation. What’s that dynamic going to look like?

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick complains to head linesman Kent Payne (79), during the first half of Super Bowl 51 against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston. Patrick Semansky The Associated Press

The Patriots are going to do it their way and Antonio is just going to have to buy in. He doesn’t have a choice. Unfortunately, there was an incident it seemed every hour with the Raiders and he can’t have one of those for six months. What are the chances? Do the math and you’ll be able to figure out.

Maybe he can fake it for a few weeks, maybe he can fake it for a few months. But you don’t just change your stripes. Tigers are who they are.

For the Raiders, it was time to call it a day

The Raiders, they just had to move on. Jon Gruden said it in his news conference: It just became too much. We couldn’t do any more.

Oakland quarterback Derek Carr celebrates after a touchdown during the Raiders’ 26-14 win over the Denver Broncos on Monday. D. Ross Cameron AP

They did everything they could to support Brown, even through the helmet situation. It got to a point where they had to move forward. They had to get ready to play. I know one thing – those guys were excited to play Monday night. They feel like they have a very good football team and they wanted to get to the game and get on with the season. Antonio, all of it, it just became a huge distraction. It was draining on the team.

You knew it when the team captains got together after the issue on the practice field with Mike Mayock and basically said, “Whatever you guys need to do, we’re good with it.” Usually players back players to a fault. They’ll go to bat for guys even if they’re in the wrong. Teammatesl say, “We’ll fix this internally.”

I’ve been through situations when I was with the Giants where things happened, off and on the field, where guys got into it with each other or with a coach, and the players handled it. That’s what you’d expect with an NFL team, and with Antonio there was a lot of that.

But it’s clear Antonio had gone too far when the players are saying, “If you have to cut him, you have to cut him. We’ll support you no matter what.”

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick embraces quarterback Tom Brady after the Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime on Sunday in Super Bowl 51 in Houston. Matt Slocum The Associated Press

It’s unfortunate, because obviously the Raiders would love to have him. Gruden did everything he could to keep him. But at some point a guy has to get out of his own way and start to be a professional. Antonio Brown was anything but that.

Defense wins championships, and fantasy leagues

Carr was talked into joining a fantasy football league a few years ago by his brother, Darren. He won it. His strategy: picking a defense off the waiver wire each week that had a chance to score points based on the matchup. This week, the choice is the Carolina Panthers against Tampa Bay.

The Patriots play the Dolphins, but that might be too easy of a layup, so let’s go with the Panthers defense against the Buccaneers. They’re at home. It’s on Thursday night, and road teams don’t usually do well on Thursday night.

The Panthers have five guys who can collapse the pocket. They made the drop-back passing game difficult for the Rams on Sunday. Jared Goff really struggled in that department and the Bucs, they kind of live in it. Jameis Winston takes some five- and seven-step drops and that Tampa Bay offensive line has not looked strong, so this is not a good matchup for the Bucs.

Carolina at home will run the football. The Panthers are going to put Tampa Bay into throwing situations and losing Adam Humphries in the slot, that really hurt that team. Mike Evans is their only guy. DeSean Jackson is gone and missed – we saw what he did with Philadelphia last week (eight receptions, 154 yards, two TDs).

Tampa Bay has some issues. It would be low-hanging fruit to take the Patriots against the Dolphins, but this is an interesting one.

I think the Panthers are going to play really well against Tampa Bay.

David Carr is a former Fresno State quarterback, NFL No. 1 draft pick and Super Bowl champion. Now he’s an analyst for the NFL Network and writing a weekly column in collaboration with The Bee’s Robert Kuwada. The column is sponsored by Valley Children’s Hospital.

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