Antonio Brown’s time with the Buccaneers came to an abrupt end Sunday.
Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians announced Brown’s fate after the Buccaneers’ 28-24 win over the Jets in Week 17.
“He is no longer a Buc,” Arians told reporters. “That’s the end of the story. Let’s talk about the guys who went out and won the game.”
While Arians didn’t provide a reason for Brown’s dismissal in the immediate aftermath of the game, he has addressed it since while other reporters have worked to create a clearer picture of what happened on the Buccaneers’ sideline.
MORE: Topless Antonio Brown apparently quits on Buccaneers
What we know about Antonio Brown’s meltdown, Buccaneers release
The root of the issue with Brown’s meltdown stemmed from Arians asking Brown to enter the game and Brown refusing to do so. Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer initially reported this shortly after the Buccaneers-Jets game came to an end.
Just talked to Bruce Arians who said he was trying to get AB to go into game & AB refused. Tried again Brown refused & Arians told him to get out. On if he saw AB take his jersey off.
“Yeah, I did. Never seen anything like it in all my years.” @NFLonFOX
— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) January 2, 2022
NBC Sports’ Peter King corroborated this report. He spoke to Arians, who explained that when he asked Brown to go into the game, the receiver said, “Nope. I’m not going in.”
Several reports, including one from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, indicate that Brown didn’t believe he was healthy enough to play amid an ankle injury with which he had been dealing. Nonetheless, Brown’s refusal to enter the game left Arians “‘very’ angry” and led to Brown’s exit.
Brown was seen speaking with Mike Evans on the Buccaneers’ sideline just before his meltdown during the third quarter. Evans tried to stop his teammate from departing, but Brown ripped off his equipment — including his jersey, pads and undershirt — and left the field shirtless.
“He had that look in his eye that I haven’t seen for a long time,” Arians told King.
Brown threw his undershirt into the stands on his way to the locker room. He briefly stopped in the end-zone to pump up the Jets crowd and gave them a peace sign as he disappeared. He didn’t return to the field.
Brown had not been benched before he left the game, according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine. He just “quit” when he had his meltdown, and that prompted his release.
I’m told that Antonio Brown was not benched prior to him leaving the field. Source tells me, “He quit.” I’m also told that he is not flying home on the team plane, as some of you have asked.
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) January 2, 2022
This isn’t the first time that Brown has been in trouble during his career, or even during the last month. In December, he was suspended three games after misrepresenting his vaccination status. However, Arians decided to welcome him back to the team after his suspension; Brown’s latest outburst was apparently too much to overcome.
“It’s a shame,” said Arians to King. “I feel bad for him. He just can’t help himself.”
MORE: Antonio Brown’s timeline of trouble
With Brown gone and Chris Godwin out for the season with a torn ACL, Mike Evans is the only starting receiver still left standing for Tampa Bay. The team will have to rely more upon Breshad Perriman, Tyler Johnson and Cyril Grayson, who had the game-winning touchdown catch against the Jets, moving forward as they prepare for another postseason run.
What’s next for Brown? That much is unclear, but he spent Sunday afternoon crafting cryptic social media posts in the aftermath of his release. One of them, a sponsored Instagram post, had a caption that read: “Football is what we do, not who we are!”