If the Ravens are thinking about signing former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown then they need to remember Sept. 24, 2017.
That was one of the darkest days in the team’s history when the players took a knee for the playing of the national anthem in London. The fallout from angry Ravens fans was significant and only last year did the team start to see a recovery.
So now, as the 2020 seasons approaches, the Ravens need to say thanks, but no thanks to Brown about playing in Baltimore. Yes, he would make them better, but he could also destroy team chemistry and set the Ravens back in their quest to capture the hearts of a new generation of fans.
There is all kind of innuendo and speculation about Brown, 31, a free agent, signing with the Ravens. There were reports about him working out with Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, his younger cousin, several weeks ago in Florida.
And then Brown reportedly shared a photo of himself in a Ravens jersey on Snapchat during the first week of May.
If Brown is throwing the Ravens a hint then they should ignore it.
Granted, he would make them better. He is the proven speed guy and deep threat the Ravens desperately need to complement the running game and short to mid-range passing attack.
Brown has caught 841 passes for 11,263 yards and 80 touchdowns during his 11-year NFL career but carries around more baggage than a cargo jet. The accusations of him mistreating or assaulting women or being a malcontent seem to follow him.
Any team needs more “sudden change” or impact players and everybody deserves second and, in some cases, third chances. But after playing in Pittsburgh and stopping in Oakland, the last team on Brown’s resume was New England, and if you can’t play for Patriots owner Robert Kraft or get straightened out by head coach Bill Belichick, then you’re the cat that has used up its nine lives.
The Ravens (14-2) had the league’s best regular-season record in 2019. Fans liked this team not just because of the winning but because of its style and passion. There weren’t a lot of high-maintenance players who consistently needed their ego stroked.
Cornerback Marcus Peters and safety Earl Thomas III have their selfish moments and can be surly. Jackson can be goofy at times, which is more growing pains than ego. But for the most part, this was and remains a very likable team.
And the Ravens are still young.
So why would you bring in a disgruntled player like Brown to contaminate young minds and hurt morale? Why would the Ravens want to alienate a fan base that took them almost two years to cultivate?
Is Brown really worth it in this city at this time?
We’ve seen the evolution of John Harbaugh as the Ravens head coach through the years. After tossing out the alpha males following the Super Bowl season in 2012, he figured out that you can’t win the Big Game without them.
That’s why the Ravens added guys like Peters and Thomas last season. You’re seeing more personalities emerge in the locker room with players such as Jackson, running back Mark Ingram II, cornerback Marlon Humphrey and linebacker Matthew Judon.
Maybe it’s part of the Big Truss mantra.
Without Brown the Ravens are already a better team than at the end of last season. They’ve added free agent defensive ends Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe to improve the run defense. They had a good draft selecting linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison, running back J. K. Dobbins and defensive tackle Justin Madubike.
Barring injuries, this team is already primed for a strong Super Bowl run.
Yet at the same time they shouldn’t forget history. In March of 2014, Ravens running back Ray Rice was involved and later suspended for his involvement in a domestic abuse case that included a video that caused shock and embarrassment to himself, the Ravens and the NFL.
Then two years ago, largely because they were playing on foreign soil, the Ravens suffered more damage than any other NFL team because of the kneeling incident.
They can’t ignore those situations.
They can’t ignore history.
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But, they can ignore Antonio Brown.