Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown oddly and abruptly left his team’s sideline and went to the locker room with his team losing to the Jets on Sunday afternoon.
Near the start of the fourth quarter in East Rutherford, N.J., Brown took off his helmet, jersey and shoulder pads, then shed his undershirt, before jogging to the visiting team’s locker room through the end zone while making a peace sign gesture.
Brown, who had three catches for 26 yards on Sunday, appeared to react to being benched in the game by Coach Bruce Arians. After his departure, the Buccaneers came back and won, 28-24.
On a video conference call with reporters after the game, Arians implied the team would release Brown.
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“He is no longer a Buc,” Arians said. “That’s the end of the story. Let’s talk about the guys that went out there and won the game.”
Quarterback Tom Brady, who had recruited Brown to Tampa Bay, called the outburst a “difficult situation.”
“I think everybody should hopefully do what they can to help him in ways that he really needs it,” Brady said. “We all love him. We care about him deeply. We want to see him be his best, and unfortunately it won’t be with our team.”
The episode was the latest in a string of infractions and incidents in Brown’s 12-year N.F.L. career. He returned to play last week from a three-game suspension that resulted from an N.F.L. investigation that found he gave the team a fake Covid-19 vaccination card. After he caught 10 passes for 101 yards last week against the Carolina Panthers, Brown brashly refused to answer a reporter’s question about his suspension, saying: “I don’t want to talk about that. You guys is all drama. It’s all about football.”
The Buccaneers signed Brown in 2020, and he started playing in November of that year, after he served an eight-game suspension levied by the N.F.L. for his role in a dispute with a moving company employee, for which he pleaded no contest to burglary and battery charges and received two years’ probation. He was also penalized for sending threatening texts to a woman who had accused him of sexual misconduct.
Despite his tumultuous exit from the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019, which followed months of Brown’s public criticism of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Oakland Raiders signed the receiver that year. His tenure in Oakland was marked by unusual circumstances, including his absence from training camp with a frostbite injury. He was released without having played in a game after an altercation with Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock.
The New England Patriots signed Brown days later, in part because Brady, in the quarterback’s final season with the team, lobbied on his behalf. Three days after Brown’s addition, he was accused in a lawsuit of sexual assault, a case that has since been settled. Brown played in one regular-season game for the Patriots before Sports Illustrated reported that he had sent intimidating text messages to a different woman who had accused him of sexual assault. The Patriots released him on Sept. 20, 2019, and during his free agency, the N.F.L. levied the eight-game suspension.
Tampa Bay signed Brown in 2020, as his suspension ended. Arians said at the time that he would have little tolerance for Brown. “We’re on the hook for nothing in this deal,” Arians said in an October news conference. “He screws up one time, he’s gone. I don’t think he will because he wants to play.”
But Arians had since voiced his support for Brown even after the receiver was suspended over the vaccination fraud.
Brown has been selected to seven Pro Bowls, and in two seasons with the Buccaneers, he has recorded 1,002 yards and eight touchdowns, as well as one during last season’s Super Bowl win over Kansas City.