Bruce Arians, coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said Sunday he wasn't going to talk further about the bizarre exit of wide receiver Antonio Brown, both from that day's game and apparently from the team overall. "He is no longer a Buc," Arians said at the time. "All right? That's the end of the story." Brown, however, is now filling in some of the gaps, via a long statement released Wednesday evening by his attorney that claims a "cover-up" by the team. According to Brown, he didn't quit, as has been insinuated—instead, he tore off his shirt and left the field Sunday because he'd been "fired on the sideline for having a painful injury." In his statement, Brown alleges that his ankle was hurt heading into Sunday's game against the Jets, and that he "relented to pressure directly" from Arians to play anyway.
Brown says staff "injected me with what I now know was a powerful and sometimes dangerous painkiller" that's been warned against by the NFL Players Association, but that after some playing time, he finally took a seat on the sideline due to "extreme" pain. It's then, he alleges, that a "very upset" Arians confronted him, dismissed his concerns about his ankle, and demanded he get back on the field. "He shouted at me, 'YOU'RE DONE!' while he ran his finger across his throat," Brown notes. "Coach was telling me that if I didn't play hurt, then I was done with the Bucs." Brown adds that Arians was well aware of his injury, even before Sunday's game, and that now, "as part of their ongoing cover-up, they are acting like I wasn't cut." He also says a Monday MRI showed broken-bone fragments lodged in his ankle, for which he'll have surgery.
Brown concluded with a vow that this isn't the end of his NFL career, noting, "I'll be back to 100% and looking forward to next season. Business gonna be BOOMIN!" Arians, for his part, has denied that Brown mentioned his injury before leaving the game, per NBC Sports and ESPN. On Monday, the coach noted, "I wish him well. If he needs help, I hope he gets some." USA Today notes this is the fourth NFL team that's "parted ways" with Brown: He was previously let go from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders after strife with those teams, then cut by the New England Patriots after it became public he'd threatened a woman accusing him of sexual harassment. He also earned a three-game suspension this season with the Bucs for providing a fake COVID vaccination card. As of Wednesday, Brown hadn't yet been officially released by the Buccaneers. Read his entire statement here. (Read more Tampa Bay Buccaneers stories.)