What happened to Antonio Brown? Former Buccaneers WR faces uphill battle to continue NFL future

What happened between WR Antonio Brown and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that led to his departure from the team in Week 17 of the 2021 season?

A year ago, WR Antonio Brown was helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeat the Washington Football Team on Wild Card Weekend. A year later, the Buccaneers will take the field without Brown despite him spending the majority of the 2021 season on their roster. Why is Brown not on the field this weekend, and what caused his release from the Tampa Bay’s roster?

Antonio Brown and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a very public separation

After an ankle injury and a suspension for reportedly using a fake vaccination card, Brown returned to the Buccaneers for their Week 16 game against the Panthers. With fellow WR Chris Godwin out for the year and Mike Evans struggling with injury, Brown’s return was a welcome sight for Tampa Bay.

In his first game back, Brown had 101 yards on 10 receptions from 15 targets. All seemed well between the maverick WR and the Buccaneers as he looked primed to help them on their run to the playoffs. However, a week later against the New York Jets, the wheels came off in spectacular fashion.

Brown walked away from the Buccaneers’ sideline during their Week 17 game against the New York Jets

During the third quarter of the game against the Jets, Brown took off his jersey and shoulder pads and ran, jumped, and skipped off the field. No one really understood what was happening. But it was a sight that left many observers stunned and a little confused. After the game, head coach Bruce Arians said that Brown “is no longer a Buc.”

It was later revealed that Brown had refused to go back into the game. Arians then told the receiver to leave, which he did. Yet, that was not the end of the story.

Brown and the Buccaneers had different accounts of what happened

Initially, there was confusion around the league. Many expected Brown to be released Monday after the game, and he was not. The same then happened Tuesday as the deadline passed and Brown was not cut. On Wednesday, Brown released his own statement.

In the statement, he claimed that he had broken bone fragments stuck in his ankle, the ligament was torn from the bone, and he’d suffered cartilage loss. He described it as “beyond painful” and said he would undergo surgery later. Brown was released on January 6, 2022. In a statement to the media, Arians further clarified the situation and refuted claims made by Brown that Arians knew of the injury and tried to make him go back into the game despite it.

This was another event in a series of issues for the WR

The past few years have seen Brown go from a player that was considered among the best in the league at his position to potentially unemployable. Let’s examine the timeline of events that have unfolded over the past couple of years:

  • February 2019: Brown asked to be traded by the Steelers after being benched for Week 17 of the preceding season.
  • March 2019: Brown was traded to the then-Oakland Raiders for third- and fifth-round picks.
  • August 2019: The summer of 2019 was dominated by Brown’s argument with the NFL over a helmet that the league deemed unsafe through their testing.
  • September 2019: Brown got into a confrontation with Raiders GM Mike Mayock after he was fined. He eventually apologized for the outburst after the team threatened to suspend him. The Raiders voided the guaranteed money on Brown’s contract and he demanded to be released. Oakland granted the demand, and he moved to the New England Patriots. He would play just one game for the Patriots before further allegations surfaced and they released him.
  • January 2020: Brown and his agent (Drew Rosenhaus) part ways with Brown later filing a lawsuit against Rosenhaus.
  • July 2020: Brown was suspended for eight games in the 2020 season.
  • December 2021: Brown was suspended for three weeks after allegedly misrepresenting his vaccination status.
  • January 2022: Brown walks off the field during Tampa Bay’s game with the Jets. He was released by the team a few days later.
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