It has been nearly 18 months since Antonio Brown last played in a professional football game, but he will have to wait another week if he's going to make his long awaited return. After announcing he planned to play Saturday for the Albany Empire of the National Arena League, Brown sat out of the contest because paperwork for his physical did not come through on time, according to NewsChannel 13 in New York.
The former NFL receiver owns the Empire. After saying throughout the week he planned to play, 4,500 fans showed up for Saturday's game. There was Brown, on the sidelines -- as an owner, not a player.
"Stay tuned, AB's coming," Brown said to NewsChannel 13. "There's proper procedures you've got to do to play football. You've got to pass the coach, the commissioner. You've got to be in physical condition. You can't just pop up, so I've got to get my feet wet. We've got to get the proper equipment. We've got to do the right thing."
"But I am going to be playing. You didn't lie. Everything is going to fall in place,.
Because he's a team owner, Brown actually could have overridden the rule and played, but he said he wanted to set a good example for the younger players.
Brown did show up in pads to Albany's practice on Thursday morning, so the comeback attempt appeared to be serious.
BREAKING NEWS - Antonio Brown enters the practice field for the first time of the Albany Empire. @wnyt pic.twitter.com/1IV7AW1EWL— Dan Levy (@dlevywnyt) May 25, 2023
However, this is where we should note that he didn't actually do anything at practice.
Your first look at Antonio Brown in an Albany Empire practice uniform. Brown has yet to participate in practice, which started at 9 AM. pic.twitter.com/rYorgc2hlW— Griffin Haas (@Griffin__Haas) May 25, 2023
Brown's contract was filed on Thursday and he was placed on the active roster, which set the stage for his return. He was on the roster for Saturday's game.
Controversy seems to follow Brown wherever he goes and his ownership of the arena league team has been no different. Brown bought the Albany Empire in March and his tenure as owner has been nothing short of a disaster. According to multiple reports, players and staff weren't being paid as recently as late April and the team's former head coach (Damon Ware) ended up leaving the Empire over the missed payments.
The team claims that the missed payments were due to a change in payroll processors that happened after Brown purchased the franchise. In an interview on May 3, Brown said that everyone had been paid what they're owed.
Speaking of money, it appears that Brown's decision to return to the field is financially motivated. According to WNYT, Brown is hoping to sell upward of 10,000 tickets for the game he plays in, which would be well above the team's average attendance of 2,500.
Brown's team is currently 1-5 on the season after a 49-27 loss on Saturday. If the seven-time Pro Bowler does end up playing in the next game, that will be on June 9 against the Orlando Predators at 7:30 p.m. ET in Orlando. Albany's next home game is on June 17 against the Jacksonville Sharks.
NAL commissioner Chris Siegfried told TMZ that the league has no rules against an owner playing for the team he owns. Brown hasn't played in the NFL since storming off the field shirtless at MetLife Stadium during the Buccaneers' 28-24 win over the Jets in Week 17 of the 2021 season.