In Supporting Seahawks Pursuit of Antonio Brown, Russell Wilson Sends Wrong Message
RENTON, WA - Following months of speculation and rumors, the Seahawks have persistently been linked to free agent receiver Antonio Brown, who is currently in the midst of an eight-game suspension.
At the center of this speculation, quarterback Russell Wilson has reportedly been pushing the organization to sign Brown, a four-time first-team All-Pro whom he has developed a friendship with over the past five years. Wilson put fuel on the fire when video surfaced of him throwing passes to the veteran during an offseason workout at his personal practice field.
On Wednesday, Wilson was finally pressed about Seattle's apparent interest in Brown, including his thoughts on potentially adding a teammate to the locker room who has been mired in serious legal issues, including accusations of sexual assault, for the better portion of the past two years.
"The reality about Antonio is he's one of the best players to ever play this game obviously," Wilson remarked. "He's always been a special player in terms of the field. The reality is he's had some tough moments in his life, especially as of late, and I think he's gone through a lot of things he wishes he could take back and do and not say or whatever, but I think he's a special player for sure."
Now 32 years old, Brown has been a phenomenal talent since being drafted out of Central Michigan. He finished the 2010s in the top three in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. His resumé has Hall of Fame written all over it and there was nothing wrong with Wilson acknowledging that.
But the problem? Wilson didn't seem to understand the magnitude of the accusations against Brown. He didn't seem to understand how detrimental his conduct and unacceptable behavior have been to the three teams he's played for as well as the individuals who have been hurt by him.
"I think he's obviously made some mistakes along the way. I think there's been a process for that and had to deal with it and go through it. I pray for anybody honestly that goes through anything and that's just me. That's just my nature personally. I don't wish anything bad on anybody."
There's nothing wrong with praying and wanting to help people who have made mistakes. Nobody will ever mistake Wilson for not having is heart in the right place and wanting to support others. But rape and sexual assault aren't just mistakes. These wicked crimes ruin lives and fracture families. While Wilson means well, these aren't the type of transgressions that deserve a free pass, particularly from a star quarterback with his platform.
Back in January, Brown and an accomplice were arrested for attacking the driver of a moving truck and he was charged with felonies for burglary of a vehicle and criminal mischief. He later pled no contest in April and received two years of probation along with anger management courses and a psychological evaluation.
On top of that, while far less severe in the scheme of things, Brown ran his way out of Oakland after the team acquired him from Pittsburgh. He threw a fit about not being able to wear a specific helmet model, skipped out on practices, and butted heads with general manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden before eventually forcing their hand and being released.
Still, Wilson believes the Seahawks have the culture and leadership to help bring out the best in Brown as a player and man. Telling reporters that the receiver has "been remorseful" for his actions in prior conversations, while he doesn't know what will happen in the near future, he thinks Seattle would be the right place for him to rebuild his career.
“Most of the conversations I’ve had with most his former teammates and stuff like that said that he worked hard every day,” Wilson said. “He came ready and I think he had a bad year or two there that didn’t go the way you want it to. I think that with our culture and how our culture is, with Coach Carroll, with the teammates that we have, the men that we have and the growth, I think, if he does play football, I think this is a great place. If he does play again, I think this is a place that he’ll grow a lot as a man as well.”
While the organization does have a history of success with troubled players finding their way, Brown's erratic behavior and mercurial personality would present the ultimate case study at a position where the Seahawks already look to be set. DK Metcalf has 496 yards and leads the league with 22.5 yards per reception, Tyler Lockett has four touchdown receptions, and David Moore is on pace for over 600 receiving yards.
In addition, though Brown will be done serving his current suspension after Week 8, the NFL is still investigating a civil suit filed by his former trainer Britney Taylor, which remains ongoing. The receiver filed a countersuit for defamation in that case. Understandably, it's still possible there could be more discipline coming from the league down the road after he has signed with a team.
Ultimately, as Wilson pointed out, the NFL is a professional sports league. Teams are always looking to find ways to improve and that's no different for the Seahawks, who despite having the No. 1 scoring offense in the league continue to be enamored by the possibility of teaming Brown up with Metcalf and Lockett.
But when it comes down to it, that's what was most surprising and equally disappointing about Wilson's comments on Thursday. While he clearly doesn't want to be perceived this way and shouldn't be criticized for seeing the best in people, by naively overlooking Brown's laundry list of controversies and downplaying the severity of his misconduct, he came across as just another tone deaf NFL player willing to win at all costs.