Antonio Brown has released a statement explaining his sideline meltdown in the Buccaneers-Jets game on Sunday, which led to his apparent release in Tampa Bay.
Brown, in a Wednesday statement released via his attorney Sean Burstyn, claimed he was “triggered” from an interaction with coach Bruce Arians after the latter “ordered” the star receiver to return to the field. That back-and-forth was the basis of Brown’s meltdown, which saw him remove his shoulderpads, undershirt and gloves before leaving the stadium.
Jay Glazer of Fox NFL reported after the game that Arians said he twice asked Brown to enter the game before telling him to get out. NBC Sports’ Peter King corroborated that report, adding that when Arians asked Brown to play, the receiver said, “Nope. I’m not going in.”
Arians, who said he had “never seen anything like it in all my years,” wasted no time after the game in saying Brown was no longer a Buccaneer. In his statement, Brown said he felt Arians “cut” him at that moment in the game, based off his refusal to play with what he described as a significant ankle injury (Arians said after the game that Brown’s injury did not come up during their conversation).
Here’s everything you need to know about Brown’s statement and his telling of events from Sunday:
Why did Antonio Brown leave the Buccaneers?
Brown said in his statement he “relented to pressure” from Arians to play injured, claiming Tampa Bay injected him with a painkiller that would allow him to play through his discomfort against the Jets. He finished with three catches for 26 yards on five targets before sitting on the sideline in “extreme” pain.
At that point, Brown said, Arians approached him on the bench.
“I took a seat on the sideline and my coach came up to me, very upset, and shouted, ‘What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with you?’ I told him, ‘It’s my ankle,'” Brown said in the statement. “But he knew that. It was well-documented and we had discussed it. He then ordered me to get on the field.
“I said, ‘Coach, I can’t.’ He didn’t call for medical attention. Instead, he shouted at me, ‘You’re done!’ while he ran his finger across his throat. Coach was telling me that if I didn’t play hurt, then I was done with the Bucs. I didn’t quit. I was cut.”
Brown acknowledged emotions were running hot at the time, considering Tampa Bay was trailing New York. But he said the ultimate reason for his exit was his interaction with Arians.
‘I know we were losing to the Jets and that was frustrating for all of us,” Brown said. “But I could not make football plays on that ankle. I walked off the field. But there’s a difference between launching from the line and taking hits, compared to jogging off the field with a rush of emotions going through your mind.
“I am reflecting on my reaction, but there was a trigger. The trigger was someone telling me I’m not allowed to feel pain,” Brown continued. “I acknowledge my past. But my past does not make me a second-class citizen. My past does not forfeit my right to be heard when I am in pain.
“I was cut first and then I walked home.”
Was Antonio Brown injured during Jets game?
According to a report from Rick Stroud following the game, Brown’s injury was more serious than the Buccaneers initially let on, which kept him from practicing on Thursday and Friday before the game and limited him in practice on Wednesday. It reportedly was bad enough that Brown’s friends encouraged him to get the opinion of a surgeon outside the Tampa Bay organization.
It is presumably the same ankle injury that landed the seven-time Pro Bowler on IR earlier in the season.
Antonio is known for having a high pain threshold but the belief is Antonio probably should’ve never been on the field to begin with Sunday. And official statement from Brown’s camp will be issued soon. They have stayed quiet since Sunday.
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) January 4, 2022
Brown in his statement also claime he and Arians texted in the days leading up to the game in which the latter “clearly acknowledged my injury.” Brown also said general manager Jason Licht acknowledged after the game that Brown told Arians about his injury on Sunday.
What is Antonio Brown’s injury?
Brown in his statement said he received an MRI on his ankle on Monday, which purportedly revealed “bone fragments stuck in my ankle, the ligament torn from the bone, and cartilage loss, which are beyond painful.”
Brown — who is still listed on the Buccaneers’ roster and injury report despite Arians saying he was no longer on the team — also claimed the MRI had been read by two of the top orthopedic doctors in New York City. He also said the team “ordered” him to get a second opinion from a team-approved doctor, not knowing he had already received opinions outside the organization.
Will Antonio Brown play again?
Despite a history of player issues that have seen him leave the Steelers, Raiders, Patriots and Buccaneers and get suspended by the NFL, Brown said his intention is to play again next season:
“Once my surgery is complete, I’ll be back to 100 percent and looking forward to next season,” Brown said. “Business gonna be boomin’!”
Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time First-Team All-Pro, has twice led the NFL in receiving (2014 and ’17), twice led the league in receptions (2014 and ’15) and once led the league in receiving touchdowns (2018).
It is uncertain, however, whether the production he is undoubtedly capable of (928 career receptions for 12,291 yards and 83 touchdowns) is worth the headaches that have accompanied him in each of his previous stops.