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Antonio Brown disputes Bruce Arians’ claim on split with Buccaneers

Brown says he was “fired on the sideline for having a painful injury.”

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Antonio Brown released his side of the story behind his split from the team.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Antonio Brown released his side of the story behind his split from the team.
Adam Hunger/AP

Wide receiver Antonio Brown insists that he did not quit on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, alleging instead that he was “fired on the sideline for having a painful injury.”

In a lengthy statement released Wednesday night by his attorney Sean Burstyn, Brown laid out his version of what happened in the sideline confrontation that led to his ouster from the team, calling Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians’ account “100% inaccurate.”

Brown said that against his better judgement, he “relented to pressure directly from my coach to play” through an ankle injury in Sunday’s game against the New York Jets and that the Buccaneers staff “injected me with what I now know was a powerful and sometimes dangerous painkiller that the (NFL Players Association) has warned against using.” Brown added that he “gave it my all for the team” but sat down once it became clear that he couldn’t safely play at a high level, which he claims upset Arians.

The NFLPA said Thursday that it intends to investigate Brown’s claims.

The coach said Monday that he was not informed by the medical staff that Brown was hurt in any manner, but Arians declined to specify the contents of the conversation that he had with Brown.

Asked about Brown’s reason for removing his pads and jersey and subsequently waving to fans and leaving the field, Arians said, “You’ll have to ask him, brother.”

Brown alleged that he had a back-and-forth with Arians about his health before the coach told him he was no longer part of the team for refusing to play.

“As part of their ongoing cover-up, they are acting like I wasn’t cut and now demanding that I see a doctor of their choice to examine my ankle,” Brown said.

Brown added that an MRI conducted Monday morning revealed broken bone fragments stuck in his ankle and that he will be having surgery. He vowed that once healthy again, he will return to the NFL.

The final line of the statement read, “I’ll be back to 100% and looking forward to next season. Business gonna be BOOMIN!”

The Buccaneers formally waived Brown on Thursday. The team denied Brown’s claim of a cover-up.

Arians normally doesn’t address reporters on Thursdays, but after the team’s announcement, he provided details and the timeline of the incident.

“At no point in time during that game did he ever ask a trainer or a doctor about his ankle,” Arians said Thursday. “That’s the normal protocol. You go through protocols during games. I was never notified of it. That was the disturbing thing when we were looking for him to go back into the game.”

This is now the fourth team that has parted ways with Brown. The Pittsburgh Steelers traded him to the Oakland Raiders after repeated clashes with members of the organization. Brown then butted heads with Raiders management during the 2019 preseason and forced his release before ever playing a game for the team. He went on to sign with New England but played in just one game before the Patriots cut him once word of Brown threatening a woman accusing him of sexual harassment became public. Brown signed with Tampa Bay after serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy and helped the Bucs win the Super Bowl last year, catching a touchdown pass in the victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

This season, Brown had appeared in just seven games amid injuries, testing positive for COVID-19 and a three-game suspension for providing a falsified vaccination card.

Brown recorded 10 catches for 101 yards in his Week 16 return from suspension. But Week 17 saw him record three catches for 26 yards before his bizarre exit.