- Wide receiver Antonio Brown has been cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a mid-game meltdown in which he left the field ripping off his equipment on the way.
- Brown had been a valuable contributor for the Bucs, scoring a touchdown in the team’s Super Bowl LIV win.
- Brown was brought back to the team earlier this year after a NFL suspension for ‘falsifying his COIVD-19 vaccination status’.
Where have we seen *this* before? After the better part of two productive and (relatively) drama-free seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, wide receiver Antonio Brown is done with the team and his NFL future very much in doubt. It’s another chapter in the downward spiral of Brown’s career that has taken him from one of the top wide receivers in the league to the brink of irrelevance in the span of three seasons.
Brown has now been sent packing by a fourth team, following unceremonious ends to stints with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots. For awhile, it looked like he had a new lease on life in Tampa Bay. The Bucs signed Brown in October 2020 and he made his Tampa Bay debut in Week 9. He had been suspended for the first eight games of the season for multiple violations of the NFL personal conduct policy. His opportunity with the Bucs was almost certainly due to his friendship and general admiration for quarterback Tom Brady. Unless Brown is tight with some other future Hall of Fame quarterback that we’re not aware of it’s doubtful that anyone else will have the stroke–or the inclination–to go to bad for him again.
There’s still plenty of unanswered questions about how the Antonio Brown meltdown transpired on Sunday. What is clear is that Brown walked off the field, stripping off his uniform as he went in a performance most likely *not* inspired by Ned Braden in the classic hockey film Slap Shot:
Brown made his exit during the third quarter of Tampa Bay’s 28-24 road win over the New York Jets. Something upset Brown who proceeded to take off his jersey, pads and undershirt, throwing his shirt and gloves into the stands. He then ran across the end zone while both teams were on the field and waved to fans as he went to the locker room. Reports suggest that Brown had some sort of confrontation with head coach Bruce Arians that led to his dramatic denouement. Arians wanted Brown to go into the game but twice he refused. Arians then told Brown to ‘get out’. Arians said that he didn’t know why Brown didn’t want to play but that it didn’t have anything to do with an injured ankle. Arians also quipped:
“Never seen anything like that in all my years.”
Arians wasn’t in a mood for explanations immediately after game. He addressed the situation to start his media availability saying:
“He is no longer a Buc. That’s the end of the story. Let’s talk about the guys that went out there and won the game.”
Pressed for more details, Arians reiterated:
“I’m not talking about him. He’s no longer part of the Bucs.”
After leaving the field, Brown quickly realized that he might have wanted to give his ‘exit strategy’ some more thought. He asked state troopers for a ride to the airport but was rebuffed. A MetLife Stadium security told ESPN that they initially thought he was a fan that had jumped onto the field:
“We thought he was a jumper. He was shirtless and didn’t have his wallet.”
According to the security officer, Brown headed to the locker room where he got changed and was able to get a lift to the airport.
Brown’s tenure with the Bucs looked to be over earlier this season when he was suspended three games by the NFL for trying to pass off a fake COVID-19 vaccination card. Instead, he was given a reprieve by head coach Arians–very likely with lobbying from Tom Brady–who said that it was in the best interest of the team to bring him back. He returned last week, catching 10 passes for 101 yards and accused the media of ‘creating drama’, presumably by having the temerity to report the bit about the fake COVID vax card.
Brady said that he didn’t know anything about Brown’s dismissal until after the game and called it a ‘difficult situation.’ He said that he would continue his friendship with Brown and encourage him to get some help:
“We all love him. We care about him deeply. We want to see him be at his best. Unfortunately it won’t be with our team. I think everyone should be very compassionate and empathetic toward some very difficult things that are happening.”
Ironically, Tampa Bay has recently signed his former Pittsburgh teammate–and another player that has done an effective job of running his career into the ground–Le’Veon Bell. When Bell says someone is guilty of ‘bad decision making’ you know there’s a problem:
“I found out when we got into the locker room at the end of the game,. I instantly sent him a text, to try to catch up with him real quick. Obviously he texted me back and I talked to him. He’s still one of my close friends. Like you won’t hear me talking bad about AB at all. Obviously I understand, things happen, but he’s one of my closest friends I’ve been around, a close teammate, overall a good person. Some bad decision-making at times, but he’s human, not perfect, and we’ll continue to move on without him and keep moving forward.”
Bell’s comments also reflect the difficulty that Brown will have getting another shot in the NFL speaking of his future ‘outside of football’:
“It’s tough. Obviously when I came over here, I was happy to be reunited with him. Unfortunately it was only two games, but at the end of the day, I wish the best for him outside of football or whatever’s next for him.”
As if the story wasn’t strange enough, Brown has since posted a surprising civil post on Instagram in which he thanks the Bucs for the opportunity:
While this is likely the ‘end of the road’ in the NFL for Brown it’s doubtful that this is the last we’ve heard from him. Stay tuned.