Well, hello there.
When last we left you, the contentious relationship between NFL star Antonio Brown and his former team, the Tampa Bay Bucs, took a surprising turn, with the mercurial wide receiver airing out coach Bruce Arians with a lengthy public statement that accused the franchise of trying to bully him into playing on a bum ankle.
In response to Brown’s “Ether”-esque onslaught, the Bucs returned fire by waiving their 33-year-old migraine, releasing a petty-ass statement of their own, and shoving a microphone in front of Arians’ fossilized face to mutter something about “you-know-who did you-know-what with you-know-who, but just keep that between me and you.”
“At no point during that game did he ever ask the trainer or doctor about his ankle—that’s the normal protocol,” Arians said Thursday. “We go through protocols during games. I was never notified of it. Obviously, that was a disturbing thing. We were looking for him to go back into the game.”
And as far as AB’s refusal to play, Arians maintains that his former receiver wasn’t hurt, but instead was tight over not getting enough targets—which lends credence to rumors that Brown’s dramatic exit on Sunday was financially motivated.
Brown’s attorney told ESPN that the receiver’s ankle injury, and not targets, was the source of Brown’s frustration.
To that, Arians responded with a chuckle: “The players know the truth.”
Things escalated in the third quarter.
“We called for the personnel group that he had played in the entire game. He refused to go in the game,” Arians said. “That’s when I looked back and saw him basically wave off the coach. I then went back, approached him about what was going on.”
Arians said Brown said, “I ain’t playing.”
Arians said he asked, “What’s going on?”
He said Brown responded with, “I ain’t getting the ball.”
“That’s when I said, ‘You’re done, get the F out of here,” said Arians, who added that he pointed to the exits and did not make a throat-slashing gesture, which Brown accused him of.
I mean, that sounds on-brand for the seven-time Pro Bowler, sooooo...
“You can’t force a player to play,” Arians said. “They have that choice. It’s their body. He decided to play. He and [Bucs receiver] Mike [Evans] both were on pitch counts. We were trying to manage that as best we could in the first half.”
There was also the matter of AB attempting to expose Arians on Thursday by posting screenshots of their text exchange prior to Sunday’s game in order to prove the team knew he was injured:
Arians had an answer for that, too.
“You saw the text,” he said. “If you can go on Saturday, I want you with the team. In case you can go. He participated in the Saturday walk-through like he was going. There was never another question about it.”
And as far as that petty-ass statement I mentioned earlier that the team released on Thursday, feel free to bask in it yourself:
“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.”
Inquiring minds wanna know: Without a player of Tom Brady’s caliber to vouch for him, does AB burning yet another bridge—and at this point, he’s running out of kerosene—finally signal the end of his NFL career?
SPOILER WARNING: Nope.
“If Antonio Brown wants a job on another team in the NFL, he can have one,” NFL insider Josina Anderson tweeted earlier this week. “That is not an opinion. That is what I know.”