Antonio Brown stripped off his uniform and left the field midway through the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ game against the New York Jets on Sunday, but there have been questions about whether he was fired by his team or abruptly quit. A new report claims it was more the former than the latter.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, Brown and Tampa Bay’s coaching staff had a disagreement during Sunday’s game about whether Brown was healthy enough to play. Brown, who has been battling an ankle injury, said during the third quarter that he could not play. Head coach Bruce Arians and others reportedly told Brown he could not be on the sideline if he was refusing to enter the game. Rapoport says Arians then “cut him from the team” before Brown’s surreal mid-game exit.
“Antonio Brown did not believe he was healthy. … What he told the staff, from what I understand, is that he was not going into the game because, in his mind, he did not feel he was healthy,” Rapoport said. “The response from the offensive coaches and from Bruce Arians was, ‘If you are not going to go into the game when we tell you to go into the game, you cannot be here.’ At that point, they threw him off the sideline and then cut him from the team.”
Brown did play some in the game. He recorded three catches for 26 yards.
There are two sides to every story, and neither has really shared theirs in this instance. Arians only said after the Bucs’ comeback win over the Jets that Brown is no longer with the team. Brown seemingly thanked the Buccaneers in an Instagram post.
One report claimed Brown was upset about being benched. Another said he refused to go into the game, which is consistent with what Rapoport was told. If that is the case, Arians obviously believed Brown was lying about being injured.
Whatever the case, Brown stripped off his uniform and tossed it into the stands in a stunning scene (video here). The 33-year-old has been given numerous chances in the NFL despite all his off-field issues, the most recent of which was a COVID vaccine controversy. Brown’s NFL career is likely over.