It’s Difficult to Trust Antonio Brown or Bruce Arians and the Bucs About Anklegate

There are no winners in this particular "he said, he said" game

Antonio Brown warms up prior to a game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium
Antonio Brown warms up prior to a game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium.

In a statement released Wednesday night via his attorney Sean Burstyn, Antonio Brown gave his side of the story that ended on Sunday with him ripping off his shirt and pads before running off the field and pumping up the crowd at the Meadowlands by hopping up and down with the Buccaneers trailing the Jets in the third quarter.

In the lengthy statement, Brown said he relented to pressure from head coach Bruce Arians to play through an injured ankle and that he was injected with “a powerful and sometimes dangerous painkiller that the NFLPA has warned against” in order to take the field. After making it through 26 plays and catching three balls for 26 yards after snagging 10 for 101 the week before against the Panthers, Brown found the pain in his ankle to be “extreme” and took a seat on the sideline.

We’ll let Brown take it from here: “My coach came up to me, very upset, and shouted, ‘What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with you?’ I told him, ‘It’s my ankle.’ But he knew that. It was well-documented and we had discussed it. He then ordered me to get on the field. I said, ‘Coach, I can’t.’ He didn’t call for medical attention. Instead, he shouted at me, ‘YOU’RE DONE!’ while he ran his finger across his throat. Coach was telling me that if I didn’t play hurt, then I was done with the Bucs. I didn’t quit. I was cut. I didn’t walk away from my brothers. I was thrown out. Being fired on the sideline for having a painful injury was bad enough. Then came their ‘spin.’ Coach denied on national television that he knew about my ankle. That’s 100% inaccurate … They are telling people that first I walked off, then I was cut. No. No. No. I was cut first and then I went home. They threw me out like an animal and I refused to wear their brand on my body, so I took my jersey off.”

On Thursday, Brown published the text messages that were allegedly exchanged between himself and Arians prior to Sunday.

If the statement and accompanying texts were from anyone other than Brown, they’d be believable enough, as an NFL team asking a player to do something unsafe to play through an injury certainly checks out, as does anger about a refusal to do so. As the saying goes, “You can’t make the club in a tub.”

But this is Brown, the same guy who has had so many off-field incidents it is hard to count, was suspended earlier this season for submitting a fake vaccination card and found it within himself to release a new rap song just hours after hopping off the field at the Meadowlands on a painful ankle that will now supposedly require surgery.

Prior to Brown’s statement, Arians denied telling Brown to go back into the game despite being injured but did say he told the receiver to get out after the star receiver refused to take the field. “It’s a shame,” Arians said regarding Brown’s antics. “I feel bad for him. He just can’t help himself. He had that look in his eye that I haven’t seen for a long time.” 

As Arians alludes to there, he had seen that look from Brown before, possibly when they were both together in Pittsburgh with the Steelers. That’s probably why he was initially against the idea of signing Brown in Tampa Bay and said as much in March of 2020. “Yeah, it’s not gonna happen,” Arians said, via ESPN. “There’s no room. And probably not enough money. But it’s not gonna happen — it’s not a fit here. Yeah, I just know him, and — it’s not a fit in our locker room.”

Once last season started and Tom Brady put the screws to him, Arians had a change of heart and decided Brown was a fit on the team, provided he stayed on the straight and narrow. “He screws up one time, and he’s gone,” was the company line from Arians. Like his previous comments about not signing Brown, those words also ended up ringing hollow after Brown stayed on the team following his three-game suspension for the fake vaccination card. “I wasn’t very proud of what he did this time, but I’ve got a spot in my heart for him now,” Arians explained. “I think he’s working at it. He’s still got a ways to go. He’s working hard at it.”

Apparently not hard enough to stay on the team if he can’t get on the field (whether due to injury or refusal).

With more social media leaks from Brown and denials or clarifications from the team sure to come, the case of Anklegate has yet to be decided in the court of public opinion. Whatever happens, neither Brown nor Arians should be viewed as a credible witness and all of their testimony, be it on the record or not, should be treated with a football-sized grain of salt. Someone is lying, and it very well could be both of them.

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