Antonio Brown isn't joining the New England Patriots organization on Monday with a history of being a good teammate and having a team-first mentality.
Yes, all players do enter the Patriots' locker room initially with a clean slate. But there's a reason Brown took a tremendous pay cut after being released by the Oakland Raiders last weekend - because he has something to prove.
Brown isn't the only receiver in New England that has something to prove to his teammates and coaching staff going forward. Josh Gordon, a talented wideout who was reinstated at the end of August from his indefinite suspension, also needs to show everyone that the labels put on him in the past don't define who he is today.
Just as it will be for Brown when he joins New England this week and prepares for the team's AFC East rival Miami Dolphins, Gordon learned quickly when he joined the Patriots last year that the football organization in Foxborough is like no other in the NFL.
“For me, initially it was a culture shock,” Gordon admitted to the media during his postgame press conference Sunday night. “It was definitely different. I think as I grew in this environment and got to observe other young men move and organize and act professionally, expectations were high. It wasn’t anything more than what I think the they knew that they could do what was being asked of them.
“I was like, ‘All right, this is the way it’s done here.’ I could either get with it or look for a transition somewhere else. It’s tough, but if this is what you want to do, I think this is the best place to be.”
The transition may be a little different for Brown, however. At 31-years-old, Brown is arguably the best receiver in the NFL and doesn't have the same labels put on him as Gordon does. Brown is extremely talented, but the question lies in whether his off-the-field antics and megastar personality will get in the way of a team-first approach to football. What he showed in Oakland was that it would in fact get in the way, which is why he talked his way off the team and eventually made his way to the Patriots. The same goes for his tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where the team traded him away for next to nothing so they could remove him from their locker room.
But Gordon isn't quite the same. His team-first mentality and attitude have always been there since he joined the Patriots. Same goes for his time with the Cleveland Browns, which was evident when they gave him numerous chances to redeem himself during his seven years with the team. Unfortunately for Gordon, his issues with substance abuse have caused those surrounding him to worry about him being suspended again as he has been multiple times since 2012. The availability hasn't always been there, but the attitude has, which is different from Brown.
That doesn't mean Brown can't learn from Gordon. They both have come into New England with their own bag of issues, which makes them similar. So when the All-Pro wideout enters the Patriots locker room for the first time, he'll need to understand how things work in New England, and who better to gain that knowledge from than a fellow receiver who has walked into the organization with a bad reputation.
Gordon can explain to Brown that though it may be different than anything he has experienced in his nine-year career, the culture put in place in New England has a positive impact on all involved.
“I’m extremely filled with gratitude every day, just enjoying myself," Gordon said. "Coming inside this building, being with this family-oriented type of environment, and just doing what I love to do. There’s nothing better than this, honestly. It’s great.”
It's unknown whether Brown will be willing to learn from a younger receiver with less of a resume than himself. If there's one thing we know for certain - the tools are there for Brown to learn and succeed in New England. But as always, it will be up to him to determine his own fate no matter the advice he is given.