Antonio Brown’s dramatic exit from the Buccaneers seemingly came out of nowhere.
At least, it did to Bruce Arians. After largely avoiding discussing the matter immediately after Tampa Bay’s win over the New York Jets on Sunday, Arians provided a little more insight Monday.
Arians said Monday that Brown did not inform the coach he felt he was not healthy enough to continue playing.
“Not really,” Arians said. “I mean, what happened. … It was pretty obvious what happened. He left the field and that was it.”
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday morning, per people close to Brown, that the receiver, in his mind, “did not feel like he was healthy enough to play.” Bucs coaches asked him to go back into the game and Brown declined, which prompted the coaching staff to ask him to leave, per Rapoport.:
Arians said he and Brown “had a conversation and he left the field” in what ended up being a very public display. Brown’s choice to remove his shoulder pads and exit MetLife Stadium shirtless sealed his fate with the Buccaneers, with the coach telling reporters afterward Brown was no longer a part of the team.
Brown caught his own ride from MetLife Stadium, and less than 24 hours later, Arians was left to attempt to pick up the pieces while processing how Brown’s time with Tampa Bay came to a sudden end.
“It was very hard,” Arians said. “I wish him well. I hope if he needs help, gets some. It’s very hard because I do care about him.”
Rapoport reported Monday frustration had grown within the organization following Brown’s suspension for misrepresenting his COVID-19 vaccination status and continued to fester with how the receiver had approached his ankle injury rehab. That frustration boiled over with Brown’s departure.
Arians didn’t have much to offer otherwise, repeating a similar phrase in response to multiple questions about what Brown said to Arians before exiting and whether there were any precipitating moments to Brown’s departure: “No, none whatsoever.”
“No, I have no regrets,” Arians said when asked how he viewed the entire experience with Brown in hindsight. “I just hope the best for him.”
Brown’s future is very much uncertain, but the Buccaneers (12-4) will move forward without him as they pursue a title defense. The NFC South champions host the Carolina Panthers to close out the regular season before beginning the postseason during Super Wild Card Weekend.
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