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Armando Salguero: The Antonio Brown Saga Continues To Take Wild Twists That Make Everyone Look Bad

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The Antonio Brown exit from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was admittedly bizarre even before an online model influencer told the Daily Mail the receiver helped sneak her into his room at the team’s New Jersey hotel the night before that fateful game against the New York Jets, even though it broke team rules and NFL COVID-19 protocols.

That is the least surprising part of this saga to me because NFL players have been sneaking women into their rooms or been sneaking out of their rooms after curfew since before Vince Lombardi.

Except back then, the women didn’t share text messages of the shenanigans to the nearest online media platform they could find to increase their following.

As for the rest of this divorce between Brown and the Buccaneers — involving lawyers representing the team, the NFL and Brown, and calling into question the veracity of an NFL Super Bowl winning head coach, the reputation of the game’s most successful quarterback, and the wisdom of all involved — has turned us into rubberneckers who cannot turn away from this train wreck.

I am as guilty as anyone, I admit, of following the events as if they were installments to a primetime soap opera.

And I come away after watching all the episodes feeling only sadness for Brown.

I come away glad I’m not him.

The whole series leaves me hopeful he’ll get help but doubting he ever will because people like that online influencer, some media, teammates, lawyers and, yes, NFL teams continue to empower Brown and his neurotic act.

That act in the last few days has included Brown requesting contract guarantees for incentives he was likely to earn had he played as he is capable.

But when the Buccaneers declined to alter Brown’s contract to meet his demands, there was coincidently an ankle injury that kept Brown out of practice last Thursday and Friday.

On Friday afternoon, Brown and Bucs coach Bruce Arians texted about playing in the Sunday Jets game and everyone seemed agreed on the idea, with the coach telling Brown he wanted him and Brown telling Arians he was getting right to be able to play.

We know this because Brown released the text exchange on social media as a way of exposing and/or embarrassing Arians, who had said the day after the game, “I don’t know that he was (injured).”

The texts Brown released, by the way, were indeed Arians’.

“You’re talking about the ones with the little heart on them? Yeah, that was me,” Arians said Thursday.

And let’s be clear here: Brown has a history of saying one thing and doing another, for being both a contributor and a detriment to teams, even for lying because he served a league suspension this season for falsifying his COVID-19 vaccine document.

But amid all that, he is also capable of speaking the truth.

That’s something that makes this entire episode so confusing because both Brown and the Bucs, as represented by Arians, are giving their accounts to events they saw through their prism.

And the accounts are different. But there’s obviously some truth in both of them, even when they contradict the other’s version of events.

The events: On Sunday the defending Super Bowl champions found themselves in a surprisingly tough game against a Jets team that had lost 11 of 15 games.

The Jets were leading 17-10 at halftime and Brown was angry he was targeted three times in the first half. So he apparently had a locker room meltdown about it.

“We got that calmed down,” Arians said. “The players took care of that.”

The embers from that moment were still smoldering in the third quarter, and this is where the heat of the moment during a frustrating game and Brown’s past history with the Bucs and other teams led to an explosion.

“We called for the personnel group that he had played in the entire game, and he refused to go into the game,” Arians said Thursday. “That’s when I looked back and saw him basically wave off the coach.

“I then went back and approached him about what was going on. ‘I ain’t playing.’ ‘What’s going on?’ ‘I ain’t getting the ball.'”

If Mike Evans had had this meltdown, Arians 100 percent throws his arm around him and calms him down. But this is AB, of whom the coach previous said, “He screws up one time, he’s gone.”

Brown, on the other hand, clearly does not handle pressure situations very well and does not have an awareness about his status on the team. You’re not Pittsburgh Steelers Antonio Brown anymore, fella. Those Pro Bowl days and times when Mike Tomlin deftly managed you and kept your diva inclinations out of the news are gone.

You’ve been cast off the Steelers.

Been cast off the Raiders.

Been cast off the Patriots.

Would a three-time castoff who is thinking logically and in control of his emotions throw a tantrum in the Bucs’ locker room at halftime because he’s not getting the football?

This all played out during an emotional period of time for Arians and Brown in front of an entire team.

“That’s when I said, ‘You’re done. Get the F outta here.’ That’s the end of it,” Arians said.

Not the end of it. Not yet, even if the Bucs wish it was. Brown ripped off his shirt and hopped and ran off the field because, he says, he no longer wished to be wearing the Bucs colors on his back.

That departure and Brown’s desire to get more passes thrown his way, thus get more action on the field, call into question his insistence that he’s nursing a serious ankle injury.

Arians, meanwhile, looks bad because on Monday he suggested Brown simply left the field after a conversation on the sideline.

“We had a conversation and he left the field,” Arians said.

We now understand Arians ordered Brown to “get the F outta here.”

Totally different feel between those two accounts from the coach.

That doesn’t excuse what Brown, apparently willing to burn every available bridge, did on Sunday and then did Thursday morning when he posted on Instagram a text exchange in which he asked Alex Guerrero, Tom Brady’s longtime friend and trainer, for a refund on $100,000 because the two weren’t working together as planned.

Guerrero responds kindly and asks Brown to let him know where to send the balance due back to Brown.

But Brown tagged Brady, linking Guerrero to Brady as his “guy” and adds, “how u even work with people like this.”

Brown is clearly trying to slime Guerrero and Brady by extension when indeed the exchange makes him look awful because Brady has been one of his most vocal advocates and was the primary reason the Buccaneers signed him last year.

Brown later deleted that unfortunate post.

Brown is not winning here. Neither is Arians.

The Buccaneers meanwhile are getting all they deserve. They signed a player known for being a headache and this week he turned into their migraine.

But was it all worthwhile?

Antonio Brown helped Tampa Bay make its Super Bowl winning run last postseason. Think about that sentence when you wonder why NFL teams keep taking the risk of signing Antonio Brown.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

8 Comments

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  1. To be “fair” to Brown … he established his outlandishly eccentric persona way back in his Steeler days. He has remained true to that aberrant behavior wherever he has been. Accentuating it at each stop.
    .
    Don’t blame Brown or the skank du jour. Blame the Buc management for giving Brown another stage and spotlight to perform his sad act.

    • It’s more like Dennis Rodman’s career and personality trajectory. First six to seven years with the Steelers, AB was the model citizen. That culminated with the team choosing to extend him over Mike Wallace, which the fans applauded. Then we started to notice some “eccentric” behavior to put it kindly.

      1. The locker room livestream showing Tomlin calling out the Pats.
      2. Calling himself Ronald Ocean to Ben and calling his confused quarterback “Billy”
      3. Having a meltdown in an early-season game against Cleveland where Ben missed a wide open AB. AB ended up kicking a Gatorade bucket on the sidelines and having an epic tantrum.

      We thought this was all fun for a while but it became increasingly weird and nasty. When he went off Juju hard after Juju’s breakout season, we could see the writing on the wall. We were glad to get rid of him to the Raiders though the trade to the Bills (that got nixed) would have been awesome as that would have netted a first rounder.

      In Rodman’s defense, even with all his bizarre behavior later in his career, he still played hard and helped the Bulls win championships.

  2. Not worth the risk putting guys like this on the roster despite their talent. Especially, wide receivers. Went through the TO thing with the Eagles and it turned into an ongoing mess. Hurts the franchise for a decent amount of time.

  3. I agree Brown deserved to get kicked to the curb for that behavior with his track record, but telling a guy who’s already a card shy of a full deck to “Get the F out of here,” is asking for a scene. Now I see why he flipped. Not too bright but Arians was mad. Probably should have just said, “Okay so and so is in the rest of the game. AB we will talk after the game.”

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