LOS ANGELES -- Antonio Brown practiced with his New England Patriots team-mates for the first time on Wednesday as the NFL prepared an investigation into the rape allegations surrounding the star receiver.
Brown, who was formally signed by the Patriots on Monday after his tumultuous exit from the Oakland Raiders, faces a new legal nightmare after being accused of rape in a lawsuit filed in federal court.
Lawyers for the 31-year-old NFL star, who has denied the allegations, have vowed to countersue his accuser, describing the lawsuit as an extortion attempt.
The Patriots issued a statement on Tuesday saying the NFL had informed them they planned to investigate the allegations made by Brown's former trainer Britney Taylor.
Taylor, who has known Brown since the two were in college together, alleges she was sexually assaulted in three separate incidents in 2017 and 2018. Attorneys for Brown said sexual interactions between the player and Taylor were consensual.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick declined to elaborate on Brown's situation as he spoke to reporters on Wednesday.
"On Antonio's situation, both Antonio and his representatives have made statements, so I'm not going to expand 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 entering into a discussion about that today."
Brown's agent Drew Rosenhaus meanwhile told ESPN that the receiver and his advisers had been "anticipating the possibility" of a lawsuit from Taylor.
However he would not confirm if the Patriots were aware of the threat of litigation before they signed Brown.
"What I want to emphasize to everybody is, please allow the situation to play itself out," Rosenhaus said.
"Antonio will cooperate. He will cooperate with the Patriots, with the NFL, with any investigation, with the NFLPA; and in time, Antonio will be cleared."
The Patriots said late Tuesday that the NFL had planned to open an investigation.
- PR headache -
"The league informed us that they will be investigating," the Super Bowl champions said. "We will have no further comment while that investigation takes place."
The case has handed the NFL a public relations headache less than one week into its centenary season, which is being billed as a season-long celebration of America's most watched sport.
The NFL could move to neutralize the case by placing Brown on its commissioner's exempt list.
This effectively places Brown on paid leave while league investigators look into the case.
Although Brown is not facing any criminal charges in relation to Taylor's allegations, he could ultimately be found to be in breach of the NFL's personal conduct policy, which would leave him risking a suspension or a fine.
The case is just the latest chapter of a chaotic year for Brown, who engineered a move from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Oakland Raiders in March.
His spell in Oakland proved disastrous, culminating in a practice field bust-up with general manager Mike Mayock last Wednesday after he was fined for missing a practice and a walkthrough.
He was fired by the Raiders on Saturday, and quickly picked up by the Patriots on a one-year deal later the same day.
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