On Tuesday, a lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of Florida accusing New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown of sexual assault and rape. Needless to say that the topic was on the collective mind when the team returned to work on Wednesday. But while head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady did not want to add any information to the statement released by the club, Matthew Slater opened up a bit more.
The team captain did understandably not go into any details when it came to addressing the allegations brought forward against the recently acquired Brown or the legal process. However, he did take the time to answer questions in the locker room about how challenges like this one could potentially impact the team as a whole. Slater, who made sure to point out the seriousness and sensitive nature of the topic, preached one word: team.
“I certainly don’t think that I should be speaking on it or I’m qualified to speak on it because I don’t have any knowledge of the situation,” he said. “I think as a leader of this team — standing before you guys, speaking on behalf of the team and not necessarily on behalf of myself — I think that it’s important that we try to focus on doing our job as professionals this week and trying to go about preparation and being ready to play a game on Sunday.”
With the legal process and the NFL’s investigation into the matter underway and no definitive conclusions yet drawn about the allegations against Brown, the expectation is that the 31-year-old will be with the Patriots when they go up against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Brown, who practiced with the club yesterday for the first time since getting signed, therefore sits in the same boat as Slater and the rest of his teammates.
“No one is bigger than the team,” Slater noted on Wednesday. “We’re all here to try to support one another, build one another up and accomplish something that’s really bigger than ourselves. That’s what a team is about. No one individual is bigger than the team. It’s about working together as a family toward a common goal, checking your ego at the door, sometimes putting personal goals aside to ensure the success of the team.”
How this entire affair plays out remains to be seen, but the Patriots’ leaders like Slater will set the tone and make sure that the rest of the club will not lose focus on what is important — and that the team will have a job to do regardless of Brown’s legal situation and the buzz it created overnight.