The last time we saw Antonio Brown on the gridiron, he went bare-chested out stage right. The stunt was apparently born out of a dispute with his then-head coach Bruce Arians.
Many (rightfully) surmised that’d be the last we’d see of Brown in the NFL. The once-beloved, then-mercurial, and finally egomaniacal wideout had burned one bridge too many.
Brown’s been ostracized from the NFL ever since. But it now appears that Brown intends to return to the football field for the first time since 2021. Even if it’s not in any of the stadiums where he once so masterfully plied his trade.
In fact, it’s not a stadium at all. It’s an arena.
Antonio Brown’s Return to Football
That’s right. Per a May 18 CBS report, Brown recently announced that he’d compete in a game for the Albany Empire, a team in the National Arena League. According to Brown, it’ll be one of the team’s next two home games, either May 27 or June 17.
Not coincidentally, Brown owns the Empire. Many will likely contend this is merely a stunt to drum up interest in his team’s games. Nonetheless, it’s one that’ll likely prove fruitful.
After all, Brown was an otherworldly talent at the height of his powers. In his six seasons between 2013-18, Brown racked up 686 receptions, 9,145 yards, and 67 touchdowns. Those are per-season averages of 114 catches, 1,524 yards, and 11 touchdowns.
Before he flamed out, Brown was very much on a Hall of Fame trajectory. And he may still wind up there someday. But, in the here and now, who wouldn’t want to see if Brown hasn’t retained some of his remarkable talents?
One needs only do a quick YouTube search of Brown’s highlight reel to recall his colossal highs. The man affectionately known as “AB” was known for his soft hands, pristine route running, impressive catch radius, and ability to tightrope the sideline like no other.
And, of course, he was also known for his touchdown celebrations.
And seeing as he owns the team, you can bet Brown will get peppered with red-zone targets from Albany quarterbacks Sam Castronova (Bethel University) and Roland Rivers III (Slippery Rock University).
Brown certainly won’t be the first prominent NFLer to do a tour in the NAL. Some notable former pros who did a tour in an arena league after (or in between) their NFL days include Quincy Carter, Rohan Davey, Troy Edwards, Shaun King, Jared Lorenzen, Tommy Maddox, Jordan Palmer, and Sean Payton.
Of course, Kurt Warner famously did a tour before his NFL career began. Mike Vanderjagt also bounced between the arena league and the pros before catching on with the Colts. But most of the names listed above turned to the arena league after their pro careers flamed out.
Technically, the same could be said of Brown. But his football résumé is miles above any of his aforementioned peers. This is like Dwyane Wade (minus the controversy) playing in a G-League game tomorrow.
Is it a must-see spectacle the way anything involving Brown was, say, five years ago? No. Not unless you’re in Albany and have the night available. But catch the highlights — if there’s one thing Brown proved time and again throughout his career, it’s that he’s good for a few of those.