The Buccaneers had a tumultuous day in New Jersey, thanks to receiver Antonio Brown either quitting or getting fired during an eventual win over the Jets. Coach Bruce Arians explained the situation with Brown to Peter King of Football Morning in America.
“It’s a shame,” Arians said regarding Brown’s latest antics. “I feel bad for him. He just can’t help himself.”
Arians reiterated the same version of the events that he shared with Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, that Arians told Brown to re-enter the game, that Brown refused, and that Arians told Brown to get out.
“Nope, I’m not going in,” Brown told Arians, according to Arians. King notes that, per TheAthletic.com, Brown claimed his ankle was sore. Whatever the specifics, Arians said he became “very” angry with Brown, who proceeded to remove his shoulder pads, jersey, T-shirt, and gloves and leave the field — and then the stadium.
“[H]e had that look in his eye that I haven’t seen for a long time,” Arians told King.
The abrupt departure of Brown, who arrived at the obvious behest of quarterback Tom Brady and who got another second chance after a three-game suspension for giving the team a fake vaccination card, creates a challenge for Arians. He has to find a way to use the incident to get the team to pull together for the playoff push.
“You’re either with us or against us,” Arians told King. “And I want you to know I’ll take the guys in this locker room and go play anyone in the world.”
That’s what they’ll be doing. The lingering question is whether anyone in the world will give Brown his latest second chance, and whether that team will eventually cross paths with the Buccaneers in the postseason.
As nutty as it may currently sound, talent finds a way. Arians changed his position in 2020 about not wanting Brown, who was suspended for the first eight games of the season due to multiple off-field incidents, because Tom Brady firmly believed that Brown could help the team win — and he did. Arians ate his own words about Brown (“he screws up one time, and he’s gone”) after the three-game suspension for submitting a fake vaccination card because Arians believed Brown could still help the team win. Last week against the Panthers, he did.
All it takes is one other team to believe that Brown can help the team win, and to believe that he can and will hold it together for a few weeks. For all anyone knows at this point, maybe Brown was upset that the Bucs displayed such ambivalence toward him during his suspension. Maybe Arians huffed and puffed to Brown about him being down to his last chance, and maybe that rubbed Brown the wrong way.
Maybe, in other words, Brown wanted out. Maybe he provoked the interactions preceding his exit. Maybe he thinks there’s another contending team that has a better chance of winning a Super Bowl, and that will give him a bigger role in the offense.
Or maybe he truly can’t help himself.
Time will tell. Starting with the likely release of Brown, coming later today. Unless, of course, the Buccaneers conclude that Brown has some ulterior motive that includes getting to another team and, instead of waiving him, they suspend him without pay for conduct detrimental to the team.