The story behind Antonio Brown's bizarre exit from Sunday's Tampa Bay Buccaneers game keeps getting weirder. According to a new report, an injury may have prompted the entire incident.
The wide receiver made a grand departure during the second half of the Bucs' road win against the New York Jets, dramatically stripping off his gear and throwing his undershirt into the crowd before waving, jumping around in the end zone, and then hitting the locker room. From there he reportedly left the stadium and was not welcome to fly back with the team to Tampa. Head coach Bruce Arians said after the game that Brown's time with the Buccaneers was over.
Arians reportedly told Jay Glazer that Brown had refused to return to the game in the second half when he was told to. But according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Brown felt he was too injured to return to the game at that point. He'd missed several weeks with an ankle injury — which happened to almost exactly coincide with his fake vaccine card suspension — and had been limited leading up to Week 17 after tweaking it in practice.
From @GMFB: How and why did #Bucs WR Antonio Brown end up storming off the field shirtless to end his Tampa Bay career? pic.twitter.com/nd6xq0xMLp
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 3, 2022
"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."
Was Brown's ankle injury really the cause of his exit?
Brown's reported claim that he was too injured to play adds a new wrinkle to everything we already know. It's certainly plausible it was the cause, because an ankle injury would have prevented him from playing last month had he not been suspended by the NFL.
However, Brown didn't seem to be favoring his ankle when he was jumping around in the end zone and running to the locker room.
Here is the video from #Bucs WR Antonio Brown… leaving the field and saying goodbye. pic.twitter.com/EaR0jRqcs3
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 2, 2022
And considering Brown's history of being difficult, the injury story Rapoport relayed feels too simple and one-sided to be the whole truth. It may have played a part, but there's probably more to this strange incident we have yet to hear about.
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