Antonio Brown‘s teammates aren’t as trusting as his coach.
On the same day that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told reporters he has no question to doubt the veracity of Brown’s claim that he had a knee injury last week, multiple unnamed Steelers players tell Aditi Kinkhabwala that they don’t believe Brown was injured. Which means that they think Brown quit on the team, days before a de facto playoff game.
That doesn’t bode well for Brown’s future with the team. If he has lost the locker room, there’s no reason to bring him back.
But there’s also no reason for the Steelers to publicly acknowledge this dynamic; if it appears that the Steelers have reached the point of no return with Brown, the Steelers may have a hard time maximizing their return if/when trade talks happen.
The evidence suggests that Brown wasn’t injured. During Tomlin’s press conference, he carefully glossed over the question of whether Brown participated in practice last Wednesday despite being injured, the question of whether Brown stormed out, and the question of whether Brown showed up last Thursday. Tomlin nevertheless was candid regarding the fact that Brown, when directed on Friday to get an MRI on his knee, didn’t — and regarding the fact that lack of communication from Friday to Sunday became one of the main reasons for Brown’s failure to play.
Apart from ensuring trade leverage, Tomlin has no reason to admit that Brown wasn’t injured, given that the Steelers placed him on the injury report and blamed his failure to play on the injury. The Steelers need to tread lightly on this; if they admit Brown wasn’t injured, they’ll face some sort of discipline from the league.
Unless, of course, the league decides to look the other way, since it’s the Steelers not the Patriots.