- New details have emerged about Sunday’s bizarre situation with former Tampa Bay wide receiver Antonio Brown.
- Brown was cut by the team 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.
There are now a few more details coming out about Sunday’s bizarre Antonio Brown ‘meltdown’. For those of you who were ‘off the grid’ completely during the weekend, Brown walked out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the middle of the third quarter and didn’t go quietly. Here’s how ESPN described the scene:
A source told ESPN that Brown was not benched. “He quit,” the source said. Brown did not fly home on the team charter, according to another source.
Teammates Mike Evans and O.J. Howard attempted to calm Brown, who took off his jersey, pads and undershirt, throwing his shirt and gloves into the stands. He then dashed across the end zone while both teams were on the field and waved to fans as he went to the locker room.
ESPN‘s description is accurate but does downplay the spectacle of the whole thing. Football fans are fortunate that Brown had the decency to stop before removing his pants. Being the ‘fan friendly’ organization they are, the NFL has blocked sharing of any video footage of the Brown incident but you can head over to YouTube and find some ‘highlights’:
The NFL on Fox Twitter account offers these brief clips:
The Antonio Brown version of events focuses on his ankle–more specifically, the ankle injury that has caused him to miss multiple games this season. Brown hasn’t gone public with his side of the story though there have been reports on NFL.com and elsewhere that make it sound like they’ve been in contact with the petulant wide receiver. Brown’s ankle had been giving him trouble in the previous week to the point that it kept him out of practice on Thursday and Friday.
According to this narrative, Brown didn’t just flat out tell head coach Bruce Arians that he didn’t want to go into the game. Instead, he felt that he was too injured to go into the game when Arians asked him too. Brown caught three passes for 26 yards earlier in the contest, but by the third quarter felt that his ankle was too jacked up to help the team. While that doesn’t explain the high profile departure from the Bucs’ sideline, you can’t really blame Brown for taking exception if the coaches wanted him to play on an injured ankle.
Heightening the drama is the fact that Brown’s side of the story is in direct conflict with what head coach Arians has said about the situation. Immediately after the game, Arians claimed that Brown refused to go into the game though it didn’t have anything to do with an injury. Bucs’ reporter Greg Auman had this on his Twitter account, quoting Arians as saying that Brown ‘didn’t tell coaches he was injured’:
I have no clue what went down between Arians and Brown, but if a player misses practice on Thursday and Friday shouldn’t coaches know there’s an issue? NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is one of the best in the business and here’s his latest report on the Brown situation:
On Monday, Arians’ tone had softened to the point that he ‘wished Brown the best.’ Nor does he have any regrets about bringing him in:
“I have no regrets. I just hope the best for him. It was very hard. I wish him well. If he needs help, I hope he gets some. It’s very hard. Because I do care about him.”
As of Monday afternoon, the Bucs hadn’t formerly released Brown. That is likely due to the team trying to figure out the best way to go about doing so while keeping the league’s lawyers happy. The plot definitely thickens–Brown is an easy guy to throw under the proverbial bus but if Arians and the Bucs’ coaching staff repeatedly asked him to go back in the game despite an injury it does change the complexion of things considerably. Brown is definitely several cards short of a full deck, but if he was concerned about his ankle he had every right to refuse to go into the game. Assuming that the Bucs’ coaches knew–and since it has been bothering him all year and kept him out of practice for two days last week you think they *had* to know–the onus then falls on them for expecting a player to enter a game with an injury. ‘Playing hurt’ sounds good as a cliche, but in reality players have to protect their long term physical well being. There’s definitely more to this story to come.