“Obviously there’s a little bit more attention drawn to him because of his career, but right now it was more or less us having a chance to get to know these guys and seeing what kind of shape they’re all in,” Payton said at a news conference Friday.
The Saints also would like to know from the league if Brown would be eligible to play in the postseason, Payton added. Brown has been under investigation by the NFL and has not played in the league since being released by the New England Patriots after playing one game for them early this season.
Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN: “Antonio had a very good visit today and we will continue our discussions with the Saints.”
The NFL announced when Brown was released by the Patriots that it would consider putting him on paid leave via placement on the commissioner’s exempt list if he’s signed by a team. The league has been investigating allegations made by two women against Brown of rape, sexual assault and sending threatening text messages. Brown has denied the accusations and has filed a counterclaim against one of the women.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at an owners’ meeting this month in Dallas that league investigators were following up on information provided by Brown when they interviewed him about the allegations. Brown faces a possible suspension without pay by the NFL under its personal conduct policy when the league’s investigation is completed.
Brown has filed grievances attempting to force the Patriots and Oakland Raiders to pay him about $40 million in voided guarantees, unpaid salaries and fines. The Raiders released Brown before the season after acquiring him in an offseason trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brown was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection for the Steelers.
NFL teams have been wary of signing Brown with his playing status not resolved by the league. Executives with some teams have become convinced that Brown would be placed on the exempt list by the NFL if he’s signed this season. Brown would be paid if he’s placed on that list, but would not be eligible to participate in practices or attend games.
The Saints have secured a spot in the NFC playoffs having clinched the NFC South, and close the regular season Sunday at Carolina. Standout wide receiver Michael Thomas was listed as a limited participant in a practice this week because of a hand injury but the injury reportedly is not regarded as serious. The Saints are the NFC’s No. 3 seed for the moment, putting them in line to play a first-round playoff game at home. They could still finish with the best record in the conference and home field throughout the postseason.