TAMPA (WFLA) — Antonio Brown’s bizarre exit from Sunday’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers game had nothing to do with an injury, according to head coach Bruce Arians.
Arians addressed the media on Monday as various claims surrounding Brown’s theatrical departure from the team’s victory against the New York Jets was due to an ankle injury he had been dealing with in recent weeks.
“I don’t know that he was [injured],” said Arians. “It was pretty obvious what happened. He left the field and that was it.”
“We had a conversation and he left the field,” Arians added after a follow-up question from the media.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday morning that Brown was instructed to go into the game against the New York Jets but the receiver refused due to his ankle injury.
“Midway through the game [Sunday], Bruce Arians and the offensive staff told Antonio Brown to go into the game. They believed that he was healthy,” Rapoport said. “Antonio Brown did not believe he was healthy. He had been battling an ankle injury for the last several weeks.”
Brown had not participated in the Buccaneers’ practices on Thursday or Friday due to the injured ankle.
“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 then from the offensive coaches and from Bruce Arians was, ‘If you are not gonna go into the game when we tell you to go into the game, then you cannot be here.’ At that point, they threw him off the sidelines and then cut him from the team.”
Brown’s mid-game meltdown came late in the third quarter with Tampa Bay trailing 24-10. He appeared animated while talking to teammate Mike Evans when he stripped off his pads, jersey, gloves and T-shirt — tossing the gloves and T-shirt into the stands — and then walked bare-chested down the sideline and into the end zone. He then waved to fans as jogged through the end zone and into the tunnel at MetLife Stadium.
It appeared to be a show of frustration by Brown, who had three catches for 26 yards.
After the game, Arians said Brown is “no longer a Buc.” However, the receiver is still officially on the roster as of Monday afternoon.
Arians said Monday that general manager Jason Licht is working on roster moves surrounding Brown’s exit from the team.
On social media, people have shared concern for Brown’s mental health after the erratic behavior during what could be his final NFL game. Arians said he hopes Brown is able to get help if he needs it.
“I wish him well. I hope if he needs help, [he] gets some. It’s very hard because I do care about him.”
Brown was suspended last month for three games for violating the league’s COVID-19 protocols. He also has a history of personal conduct issues and bizarre behavior.