The relationship between Antonio Brown and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is now officially over. Four days after the former All-Pro wide receiver exited the field against the New York Jets in dramatic fashion, and following a list of accusations regarding an alleged ankle injury Brown says he'll now undergo surgery to repair, the Buccaneers have terminated his contract -- the team announced on Thursday.
In a formal statement, they also addressed the allegations Brown levied against them.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have terminated the contract of Antonio Brown, effective immediately," the team said, via Twitter. "While Antonio did receive treatment on his ankle and was listed on the injury report the week leading up to last Sunday's game, he was cleared to play by our medical team prior to the start of the game and at no point during the game did he indicate to our medical personnel that he could not play. We have attempted, multiple times throughout this week, to schedule an evaluation by an outside orthopedic specialist, yet Antonio has not complied. Maintaining the health and wellness of our players is of the utmost importance to our organization.
Head coach Bruce Arians, who was initially resistant to revealing what occurred on the Bucs sideline at MetLife Stadium, then took to the podium to detail the chronology of events.
"Obviously, we let Antonio go today. Just to clear you up on some things that happened. At no point in time during that game did he ever ask the trainer or doctor about his ankle. He never went through -- that's the normal protocol. You go through protocols during games. I was never notified of it. So that was the disturbing thing when we were going to look for him to go back into the game. He was very upset at halftime about who was getting targeted, but got that calmed down -- players took care of that. It started again on the sideline. We called the personnel group that he had played in the entire game, but he refused to go in the game. That's when I looked back and basically saw him wave off the coach. I then went back and approached him about what was going on. [He said], "I ain't playing." [I said], "What's going on?" [He said], "I ain't getting the ball." That's when I said, "You're done. Get the F outta here." That's the end of it. We're working on Carolina and that's the end of the story. Hopefully, it ends today."
It's highly unlikely that it will, especially as new reports surface that state Brown and his agent approached general manager Jason Licht with the hopes of having the $2 million in remaining incentives guaranteed, but Licht declined, per Adam Schefter of ESPN. Combined with Arians' statement regarding Brown being furious about lack of targets -- in a game wherein he had a chance at earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in incentives -- the not-so-veiled allegation is that Brown's displeasure was fueled by a financial grievance and not any sort of physical ailment.
For his part, Brown broke his silence in an Instagram post, detailing his grievances.
First of all, I'd like to express my gratitude to the Bucs, fans, and my teammates. The Bucs helped me return to productive football after I had difficulties that could have ended my career. We worked together to resolve those difficulties, and I will always appreciate that. Being part of a Super Bowl champion team and then a contender is a dream come true.
I make mistakes. I'm working on myself and I have positive influences around me. But one thing I don't do is shy away from playing hard on the field. No one can accuse me of not giving it my all every play.
Because of my commitment to the game, I relented to pressure directly from my coach to play injured. Despite the pain, I suited up, the staff injected me with what I now know was a powerful and sometimes dangerous painkiller that the NFLPA has warned against using, and I gave it my all for the team. I played until it was clear that I could not use my ankle to safely perform my playing responsibilities. On top of that, the pain was extreme. I took a seat on the sideline and my coach came up to me, very upset, and shouted, "What's wrong with you? What's wrong with you?" I told him, "It's my ankle." But he knew that. It was well-documented and We had discussed it. He then ordered me to get on the field. I said, "Coach, I can't." He didn't call for medical attention. Instead, he shouted at me, "YOU'RE DONE!" while he ran his finger across his throat. Coach was telling me that if I didn't play hurt, then I was done with the Bucs.
I didn't quit. I was cut. I didn't walk away from my brothers. I was thrown out. Being fired on the sideline for having a painful injury was bad enough. Then came their "spin." Coach denied on national television that he knew about my ankle. That's 100% inaccurate. Not only did he know I missed several games with the injury, he and I exchanged texts days before the game where he clearly acknowledged my injury. He obviously knew I was on the injury list. And the GM acknowledged after the game in text messages to my camp that I did tell coach about my ankle pain on Sunday.
I know we were losing to the Jets and that was frustrating for all of us. But I could not make football plays on that ankle. Yes, I
walked off the field. But there's a major difference between launching from the line and taking hits, compared to jogging off the field with a rush of emotions going through your mind. I am reflecting on my reaction, but there was a trigger. The trigger was someone telling me that I'm not allowed to feel pain. I acknowledge my past. But my past does not make me a second class citizen. My past does not forfeit my right to be heard when I am in pain.
First they cut me. Now they cage me. Instead of asking how I felt or getting to the bottom of it, the team texted my camp promoting a totally false narrative that I randomly acted out without any explanation. They even told us in writing "don't spin this" any other way. I have stress, I have things I need to work on. But the worst part of this has been the Bucs' repeated effort to portray this as a random outburst. They are telling people that first I walked off, then I was cut. No. No. No. I was cut first and then I went home. They threw me out like an animal and I refused to wear their brand on my body, so I took my jersey off.
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. What they did not know until now is that on Monday morning I had an urgent MRI on my ankle. It shows broken bone fragments stuck in my ankle, the ligament torn from the bone, and cartilage loss, which are beyond painful. You can see the bone bulging from the outside. But that must and can be repaired. The MRI has been read by two top orthopedic surgeons in NYC, including Dr. Martin O'Malley at Hospital for Special Surgery. Not realizing that I had already scheduled a surgery at HSS, the Bucs "ordered" me under penalty of discipline and with a few hours' notice to show up to a more junior doctor at HSS for another opinion. What a joke. They're playing like I wasn't cut, giving me a surprise attack "order" to show up to another doctor with no reasonable notice, and setting this whole thing up as a basis to cut me because what they did on Sunday was not legitimate. Sorry, GM. I already received a confirming opinion from the Top Doc at the hospital you "ordered" me to go to.
I love the Bucs fans. I really do. I love my teammates and everyone who showed me grace and believed in me. I gave the Bucs everything I had on the field. What the organization is doing now needs to get cleaned up. I do not understand how people publicly claiming to be concerned about my mental health can do these things to me in private.
Once my surgery is complete, I'll be back to 100% and looking forward to next season. Business gonna be BOOMIN!
Brown went on to rail against the team as well as head coach Bruce Arians and Alex Guerrero, famed trainer of Tom Brady, while also taking shots at Brady in social media posts. The mercurial veteran receiver will be subject to waivers ahead of the playoffs, but if he's truly set to undergo ankle surgery, he wouldn't be available to play in the postseason.
That said, it's well within his power to pivot from that decision and take the field for a new team, but if he does and plays for them, you can expect this already toxic divorce to become more so -- as the Buccaneers will likely point at his ability to play immediately following his release from Tampa Bay as evidence his ankle was not an/the issue against the Jets.
In other words, for one reason or several, this saga is far from over.