Report: Buccaneers Tried to Get Antonio Brown Mental Health Help Before Release

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 7, 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

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers reportedly delayed the release of wide receiver Antonio Brown to see whether he was interested in receiving mental health treatment.

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported the update Friday and noted Brown thought the idea was "ridiculous:"

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

From <a href="https://twitter.com/gmfb?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@GMFB</a>: A lengthy look at Antonio Brown's end with the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bucs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Bucs</a>, with the team trying to get him help before they released him. <a href="https://t.co/toRfHdfGbM">pic.twitter.com/toRfHdfGbM</a>

Brown, who ripped off his pads and ran off the field during the third quarter of Sunday's game against the New York Jets, was released Thursday. His attorney, Sean Burstyn, previously told ESPN's Jenna Laine the Bucs are using mental health to cover up their alleged mishandling of the receiver's ankle injury:

"Antonio never faked an injury in his life. It is incredible that people are pushing false rumors that what happened Sunday was the result of mental health issues and not a well-known ankle injury. Why would they embark on a campaign of false concealment? To avoid responsibility for ignoring the risk of serious injury for the sake of winning a game."

The seven-time Pro Bowl wideout released a statement through Burstyn on Wednesday night, saying the Buccaneers were aware of the severity of his ankle injury, which caused him "extreme" pain, but head coach Bruce Arians still decided to cut him for refusing to enter the game Sunday:

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

Statement from Antonio Brown via his attorney ⁦<a href="https://twitter.com/seanburstyn?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@seanburstyn</a>⁩: <a href="https://t.co/pJ3VGFBjSy">pic.twitter.com/pJ3VGFBjSy</a>

Arians provided a different version of events Monday. He stated Brown didn't alert him of an injury that would prevent him from playing during a sideline conversation before the receiver's dramatic exit.

"I don't know that he was [injured]," Arians told reporters.

Brown responded to that claim by posting a purported text exchange between himself and the Bucs coach from Friday where he sent a picture of getting treatment on his ankle:

AB @AB84

Health over Wealth # Barbarian <a href="https://t.co/5pxjpZ6491">pic.twitter.com/5pxjpZ6491</a>

NFL Players Association spokesperson George Atallah told Mike Jones of USA Today the union will investigate any claim of injury mismanagement, but it's going to need further information from Brown, who's yet to make contact with the NFLPA.

Brown suffered the ankle injury in an Oct. 14 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. He returned Dec. 26 against the Carolina Panthers after recovering and serving a three-game suspension from the NFL for misrepresenting his COVID-19 vaccination status.

He made 10 catches for 101 yards against the Panthers, but was listed as questionable for the Jets game after missing two practices because of continued ankle issues. He caught three passes for 26 yards before leaving the field.

Brown lands on waivers after being released. If he goes unclaimed, he'll become an unrestricted free agent eligible to sign with any team ahead of the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Bucs wrap up the regular season Sunday when they host the Panthers. They've already clinched a playoff berth as the NFC South champions and are merely playing for seeding as they prepare to defend their Super Bowl title.