In all of sports, excuses are made for the stars and examples are made of the scrubs. That concept will once again play out in Tampa Bay.
If receiver Antonio Brown and/or safety Mike Edwards stunk, they’d already be gone. They don’t stink. More importantly, after a rash of injuries on Sunday night, the Buccaneers need them. The Bucs, with receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin now injured and pass-catching tailback Leonard Fournette also banged up, need Brown to run routes and catch passes. Thus, the franchise will let bygones be bygones.
During Sunday night’s pregame show on the team’s flagship radio network, G.M. Jason Licht announced that Brown and Edwards, whose three-game suspensions for falsifying vaccination cards expired after last night’s game, will be reinstated. After the 9-0, injury-riddled loss to the Saints, coach Bruce Arians explained the decision.
“It was in the best interests of our football team,” Arians told reporters. “Both those guys have served their time and we welcome them back.”
That’s a far cry from Arians telling Peter King 14 months ago that, if Brown screws up one time, he’ll be gone. Brown committed fraud on the COVID protocols in order to enjoy the benefits of being vaccinated without actually being vaccinated. He put Arians, a three-time cancer survivor, and 83-year-old offensive assistant Tom Moore, at risk.
Arians has yet to reconcile his current words with his past ones. He wasn’t pressed last night for an explanation, and he likely won’t be. If he ever is, his face will likely turn the color of whatever shirt he’s wearing that day, and whoever asks the question will become persona non grata in the Tampa Bay press corps.
There’s nothing to reconcile. Last October, Brown’s value to the team wasn’t clear. Now, especially with last night’s injuries. it is. He’s not going anywhere. That’s how it works, for every team in every sport, at every level.
Indeed, to the extent that the team was considering putting him on ice for the rest of the regular season in order to keep him from reaching some high-dollar incentives, that likely won’t happen either. Last night’s no-point output creates an all-hands urgency to get wins.