Sunday 7: Robert Kraft isn’t only reason why Antonio Brown likely won’t return to Patriots


1. Antonio Brown is back in the news. The former Patriots wide out posted a few things to social media this week hinting he would like to return to the Patriots. Then on Saturday, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Brown would like to make a comeback in the next several weeks after it is clear he would be allowed to play following the NFL’s investigation into his off-field matters. The report also said he would welcome a return to the Patriots. Of course, that seems highly unlikely given Brown’s actions in the days following his release, which included taking a shot at Patriots owner Robert Kraft on Twitter. In addition, Kraft would once again be putting himself on the line if he ever gave Brown a second chance. But, it goes beyond the Patriots owner. It would appear several Patriots players would not be in favor of a Brown reunion. “I’m not answering any Antonio Brown questions,” Devin McCourty said defiantly on Dale & Keefe Friday when asked if he would welcome Brown back into the locker room. It’s also worth looking back at other comments from Brown’s short tenure with the team. “As a leader of this team, speaking on behalf of the team, not necessarily on behalf of myself, I think it’s important we focus on doing our job as professionals this week,” Matthew Slater said when speaking following the accusations against Brown becoming public. Basically, Slater is saying he personally did not want to discuss Brown, but did because he’s a team captain. Even if Kraft were to OK such a move, it’s hard to imagine the entire locker room welcoming Brown back. Bill Belichick is as good as anyone at reading a room and for as much as he, Tom Brady and others within the organization would love a weapon like Brown, it simply is not worth it once again.

2. With that being said, all indications say the Patriots will be looking to upgrade their offense by this month’s trade deadline, especially the wide receiver position. Brady has implied he wants more veteran players and Belichick’s words Friday when speaking about Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski hinted he shares similar feelings. “Both of those kids work hard and they're both trying really hard. They're getting better,” he said. “They just have a lot of ground to make up relative to receivers, experienced receivers like Phil [Dorsett> and Julian [Edelman>, guys like that. Making progress.” He certainly isn’t giving up on them by any means, it just says with their lack of experience it’s hard to truly depend on them for more than they have given.

3. One thing that caught our eye Thursday night was Sony Michel being replaced by Brandon Bolden as the goal-line back in the middle of the game and then later on Brady taking things into his own hands with a number of QB-sneaks, including one from the four-yard line. Brady’s seven rushing attempts were tied for the third-most in a single game during his career. This is not a good sign for the first-round pick of a year ago. Short-yardage situations have been a long-lasting issue for the offense, as it struggles to find a running back who can consistently pick up first downs in these situations.

4. Michael Bennett’s situation is certainly worth watching. Belichick is all about value, and a player who has the sixth-highest cap hit on the team ($6.5 million) that is playing 11 and 14 snaps like he has the past two games respectively is not doing great in that department. While it’s only six games, some players just don’t fit Belichick’s scheme for whatever reason and Bennett could be one of them. If the trend continues the next few weeks, it would not be a shock to see the veteran dealt to a team needing help along the defensive line.

5. The Patriots may be forced into reworking their offense without a fullback for the rest of the season, as Jakob Johnson reportedly is expected to join James Develin on injured reserve. There are questions on if Develin will be able to return and given the point in the year it is, Johnson might be done for the season as well. Adding a fullback might prove to handcuff the team when it comes to the salary cap and prevent them from trading for a wide receiver or tight end. For this reason, we view the team adding another fullback as a long-shot.

6. Even though he’s been inactive in all three games he's been on the roster for, third-string quarterback Cody Kessler has put in a ton of work with his new team. The 26-year-old has been on the field hours before games throwing and going through progressions with assistant quarterbacks coach Mick Lombardi. This feels similar to Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett working with Jerry Schuplinski when all three were in New England. Belichick also seems to be a fan of Kessler. “Cody's done a nice job for us,” he said last week. “He's really smart. He's come in here, he's learned. He's out there calling plays, signaling receivers, making adjustments like he's been here longer than the two weeks or whatever it is. He's picked things up very quickly and has a good rapport with all of the players and is willing to do whatever we've asked him to do.”

7. The Patriots won’t return to the facility until Tuesday and that was welcomed news among the players who were in the locker room Friday afternoon. Not only are a number of players banged up, it’s just been a lot of football without any down time since training camp. Not only do players need a physical break, but a mental break as well. The team will also get an extra day to prepare for its next opponent, the Jets, who it will take on a week from Monday on Monday Night Football.