FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Patriots receiver Antonio Brown practiced with the team for the first time on Wednesday, a day after his former trainer filed a civil lawsuit in Florida accusing him of sexually assaulting her on three occasions.
Before the practice session, coach Bill Belichick declined to answer numerous questions about Brown, including his status for Sunday’s game at Miami. He deferred to the Patriots’ statement late Tuesday in which they said they were aware of the lawsuit and “take these allegations very seriously.”
“Antonio and his representatives have made statements, so I’m not going to be expanding on any of those,” Belichick said. “They are what they are. We’ve looked into the situation. We’re taking it very seriously all the way through the organization. I’m sure there are questions, but I’m not going to enter into the discussion about that.”
Brown has denied the allegations. Darren Heitner, a lawyer representing Brown, told The Associated Press his client plans to countersue. The NFL has declined to comment but will be opening an investigation into the matter.
Belichick was asked specifically about the possibility of Brown being placed on the commissioner’s exempt list by Roger Goodell. That special designation, which is used at the discretion of Goodell to allow the league to conduct investigations into possible violations of the league’s personal conduct policy, would prevent Brown from practicing or attending games while on the list.
Brown would, however, be eligible to continue being paid on the one-year deal he signed Monday with the Patriots that could pay him $15 million this season.
“We’re preparing for one day at a time,” Belichick said.
In the less than five-minute portion of practice open to the media, Brown wore a No. 1 jersey and a visor with his helmet while going through warmup drills with teammates. Brown has worn No. 84 throughout his previous nine NFL seasons, but that number is currently being worn by Patriots tight end Ben Watson.
Brown wasn’t present in the locker room during the 45-minute period open to reporters. His locker, which is situated two stalls away from quarterback Tom Brady, had both doors shut.
Brady declined to comment on Brown’s civil case or on a report that Brown was currently staying at Brady’s house while he gets settled in New England.
“I’m just trying to show up and play football and try to prepare (for the Dolphins),” Brady said. “I’m gonna get ready for them and things that don’t involve me don’t involve me.”
Safety Devin McCourty, in his 10th season in New England, said the Patriots teams he’s been on have generally done a good job of blocking out distractions. Though he acknowledged Brown’s situation is unique.
McCourty said the players realize how serious the allegations are against Brown.
“But I think from a football standpoint we’ve got to be prepared to go out there and play against the Dolphins on Sunday because that’s what our job calls on us to do,” he said.
McCourty said it’s still too early to know what kind of teammate Brown will be.
“He’s going through a personal situation and none of us really know him yet,” McCourty said. “We’re just starting to get to know guys. I think that’s what you build on, just trying to get to know guys that come in here. … I think that’s all part of getting new teammates, to get to know them for yourself and not judging them on what’s happened on other teams or different things, but just trying to get to know guys.”
Brown was originally traded from Pittsburgh to Oakland in the offseason. But a bizarre foot injury, fights with the NFL over his helmet, skipping practices, multiple fines, a run-in with Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and his social media posts ultimately led to the decision to release him.
He agreed to a deal with the defending Super Bowl champions hours after the Raiders granted his request and let him go.
Notes: The Patriots signed free agent offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse to the 53-man roster on Wednesday. Newhouse, an eight-year veteran who had previous stints with the Packers, Bengals, Giants, Raiders, Bills and Panthers adds some depth to the line following the shoulder injury to starting right tackle Marcus Cannon in last week’s win over Pittsburgh. … Cannon, RB Brandon Bolden (hamstring) and TE Matt LaCosse (ankle) were all limited participants during Wednesday’s practice.