Bruce Arians Says Antonio Brown Didn't Reference Injury Before Buccaneers Walkout

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 3, 2022

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (81) walks on the field during an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP Photo/Adam Hunger

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians pushed back against the idea Antonio Brown was too injured to play before the wide receiver exited the field during Sunday's game against the New York Jets in a bizarre scene that saw Brown take off his jersey and pump up the crowd while exiting.

"We had a conversation and he left the field," Arians told reporters while saying Brown did not say his ankle was injured.

This comes after NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Brown argued with the Tampa Bay coaching staff that he was too injured to re-enter the game:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

From <a href="https://twitter.com/gmfb?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@GMFB</a>: How and why did <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bucs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Bucs</a> WR Antonio Brown end up storming off the field shirtless to end his Tampa Bay career? <a href="https://t.co/nd6xq0xMLp">pic.twitter.com/nd6xq0xMLp</a>

"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."

The incident likely ended Brown's time with Tampa Bay considering Arians told reporters "[Brown] is no longer a Buc" after the game.

Even before the dramatic ending to the pairing's time together, the decision by the Buccaneers to bring Brown in prior to the 2020 campaign was always controversial. As ESPN's Field Yates shared, the wide receiver's career has been filled with off-field headlines and concerns:      

Field Yates @FieldYates

It's been an eventful last 3 years for Antonio Brown. <br><br>A look at the several notable incidents, via <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNStatsInfo?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ESPNStatsInfo</a>. <a href="https://t.co/GeW0dwQIli">pic.twitter.com/GeW0dwQIli</a>

Most notably, he was accused of sexual assault and misconduct. He also pleaded no contest after he was charged with felony burglary and battery and was suspended for eight games in 2020 for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

While Brown helped the Buccaneers win the Super Bowl last season, the headlines didn't stop when he was a member of the NFC South team. He was also suspended three games this season for faking his COVID-19 vaccination card.

Sunday's display was apparently the last straw for the defending champions, and Arians told reporters the team has not heard from Brown or his agent since.

Tampa Bay still managed to win the game, as Tom Brady found Cyril Grayson for the winning touchdown in the final seconds.

The Buccaneers are now 12-4 and sitting in the No. 3 seed in the NFC standings. They will close out the regular season in Week 18 with a matchup against the Carolina Panthers.