Antonio Brown Returning to Bucs Is 'in the Best Interest' of Team, Bruce Arians Says

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVDecember 20, 2021

Football: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Antonio Brown on sidelines in civilian clothing during game vs New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa, FL 11/22/2021 CREDIT: Simon Bruty (Photo by Simon Bruty/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (Set Number: X163871 TK1)
Set Number: X163871 TK1

Veteran wide receiver Antonio Brown, who served a three-game suspension for having a fake vaccination card, is set to return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday. 

And head coach Bruce Arians is ready to have him back.

CBS Sports HQ @CBSSportsHQ

"It's in the best interest of our football team ... both those guys have served their time and we welcome them back."<br><br>Bucs coach Bruce Arians says Antonio Brown and Mike Edwards will rejoin the team next week. <a href="https://t.co/WMC0PIedVr">pic.twitter.com/WMC0PIedVr</a>

Mike Edwards was also suspended three games for providing a false vaccination card.

General manager Jason Licht offered a similar message before Sunday's game.

"We look forward to having them back with the team," he said on the team's pregame radio show, per ESPN's Jenna Laine.

Arians reportedly told Brown when he was signed in Oct. 2020 that "there will be no second chances," per Laine. The veteran wideout was suspended eight games that season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after he pleaded no contest to felony burglary with battery and two other misdemeanor charges and was accused of sexual misconduct. 

However, Brown's return comes at a time of major need for the Bucs, who found themselves suddenly thin at wide receiver on Sunday night, with both Mike Evans (hamstring) and Chris Godwin (knee) leaving Sunday's 9-0 loss versus the New Orleans Saints with injuries. Neither returned.

Greg Auman @gregauman

Arians has no details on severity of injuries -- Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette have hamstring injuries, Chris Godwin a knee injury, Lavonte David a foot injury.

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

Though he was ruled out tonight, the initial belief is that <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bucs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Bucs</a> WR Chris Godwin did not suffer a major injury, source said. He’ll have tests tomorrow, but based on the early diagnosis, Godwin sprained his MCL. That means he’ll miss time, with an MRI to determine when he’s back.

Add in the injury to Leonard Fournette, and the Bucs could be facing a pivotal stretch of the season without three key players. The team is currently 10-4 and third in the NFC, battling for the top overall seed and a first-round bye. 

Brown, 33, has played well for the Bucs when he's been on the field. Last season he caught 45 passes for 483 yards and four touchdowns in eight games. Injuries and his suspension have limited him to just five games this year, though he's caught 29 passes for 418 yards and four scores in those contests.

Now, with Evans and Godwin facing potential stints on the sideline, Brown could become Tom Brady's top option in the passing game.