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Buccaneers wideout Antonio Brown has been sidelined with an ankle injury since a Week 6 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. AB was projected to return for Week 13’s game against the Atlanta Falcons until a setback with the injury forced him to miss the contest.
Days after the setback news, Brown was handed a three-game suspension by the NFL for faking a vaccination card, granting him the advantages of a vaccinated player, per the League’s COVID policies.
For some in the media, Brown’s COVID-related drama became an opportunity to lambast another unvaccinated player. Others prodded Brown’s troubled past in the League.
After a Week 16 return against the Carolina Panthers, AB took questions from reporters and appeared in no mood to discuss the contentious topic.
The first query that upset AB came from ESPN reporter Jenna Laine. She asked the receiver if he was surprised not to get cut from the team by a seemingly uncompromising Bruce Arians before Brown cut off the reporter.
“Next question. Next question. We just want to talk about this game,” Brown said. “We don’t wanna waste no time with you guys writing bogus …
“I don’t want to talk about that. You guys are all drama. It’s all about football. We’re going to talk about Carolina or I don’t want to talk to you.”
A different reporter revisited the topic, which prompted Brown to not mince words with the media’s treatment in his time away from the team. He stopped the reporter from trying to push the topic..
“It’s a lot of drama you guys create, a lot of drama people create who want stuff from me,” Brown responded. “That’s a part of life, a part of being in the position. I can’t control what people want from me, what people write about me.”
After plenty of deflecting from Arians during the suspension period, it stood evident that the AB’s value to the team exceeded any pressure to cut the wideout.
Week 16’s return showcased the value as Brown led the team in catches (10) and receiving yards (101).
Brown’s contributions also come as the Bucs play without Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The Bucs’ Week 15 loss, 9-0, against the Saints proved costly in several ways after Evans suffered a hamstring injury and Godwin a season-ending ACL tear.
Through the injuries, Brady, Brown and the Bucs still got the job done against Carolina on Sunday, 32-6.
Tampa Bay clinched their first NFC South title since 2007.
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Follow along on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela