TAMPA, Fla. — Fresh off his release from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, wide receiver Antonio Brown had a lot to say Friday, airing out his frustrations on everything from how the Buccaneers handled his ankle injury last Sunday to his relationship with Tom Brady not being one he felt was genuine, but more out of a shared interest in winning.
“To me, a friend is someone who’s got your back,” Brown said on the “Full Send Podcast” Friday. “Not everybody in sports is going to be your friend. Tom Brady’s my friend why? Because I’m a good football player. He needs me to play football. People have different meanings of what friendship is.”
Brown’s comments about Brady were a sharp deviation from what he’s said in the past, likening the seven-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback to a “big brother” and called him a “role model,” after Brady twice invited Brown to move in with him, when they were with the New England Patriots and in Tampa Bay.
“I mean, you can’t really expect anyone to be your friend in the business of football,” Brown said on “Tapped In Daily” on Clubhouse. “The game is football but our business is winning. Me and Tom Brady have something in common with winners. We like winning. We like to compete. We like to be the best. So we got that in common. That’s what makes me want to be around him, that’s what makes us play together, that’s what makes us gel, that brings out greatness.”
Brady has, on multiple occasions vouched for Brown, despite criticism because of his troubled history, which has included 11 missed games due to suspension over the last two seasons. Prior to signing with the Bucs in Oct. 2020, Brown was ordered to serve an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy for assaulting a moving truck driver, which he pleaded no contest to, burglary and battery charges, and was placed on felony probation and ordered to undergo anger management.
“We all love him. We care about him deeply. We want to see him be at his best. Unfortunately it won’t be with our team,” Brady said Sunday. “I think everyone should be very compassionate and empathetic toward some very difficult things that are happening.”
Brown also seemed to believe that Brady was somehow responsible for him not getting the contract he felt he deserved. Brown signed a one-year deal this offseason worth up to $6.25 million. It was incentive-laden, but carried a guaranteed $3.1 million with a $2 million signing bonus.
Brown actually called Brady the “general manager,” a position that’s held by Jason Licht. Licht told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Brown and his agent attempted to get Brown’s remaining $2 million in incentives guaranteed, but the request was denied. Brown even went so far to say that Brady negotiated the contract.
“To say someone’s my friend — I’m out here getting ‘prove it’ type contracts where I’m out here, they got me trying to earn a million dollars to make some type of catches,” Brown said on Clubhouse. “So to say you’re my friend — I shouldn’t be playing on those types of deals when I just came with you and won the Super Bowl.”
“So I think people like to be around me and spend time with me but they’re not even seeing my value in that regards. If you check the stats and the history, which is what we get paid off of, which we go about, the work and the intangibles — I would think I could deserve more than be worrying about earning money instead of worrying about winning another Super Bowl.”
Aside from the ankle injury, Brown’s frustration also stems from what he felt like was an unfair punishment when an NFL investigation determined that he and two other teammates — Mike Edwards and John Franklin III — produced fake COVID-19 vaccination cards. He also does not agree with how he has been portrayed by the media, whom he lashed out at two weeks ago, saying, “You guys is all about drama.”
“How I’ve been handled, how I continue to be handled, how I continue to be slandered, how I continue to be made upon as a bad guy — I know America love its bad guys — but I’m a great guy,” Brown said on Clubhouse. “I just won a Super Bowl, I’m an American hero, I persevered through numerous adversities.”
“I took a COVID suspension without evidence and information that was presented correctly and came back and got 100 yards on half an ankle — a deltoid, a torn ligament, bone fractures in my ankle. No one’s talking about the great things that I’ve been able to persevere through and do. I’ve been kicked off teams, written bad about, bad statements, created bad stories, and no matter what’s been said, I continue to persevere and come through with the work.”
“I know America love its bad guys — but I’m a great guy. I just won a Super Bowl, I’m an American hero, I persevered through numerous adversities.”
How does Brown remember Sunday’s events at MetLife Stadium, where he took off his jersey, threw his gloves and undershirt into the stands, jogged into the end zone and did jumping jacks, leaving the game in the third quarter while both teams were on the field playing?
“The coach said, ‘Get the f— out of here.’ I’m like, ‘Yo, f— you guys too!’ I’m taking off your logo, I’m not wearing this s— no more. I threw it,” Brown said. “Now imagine you hear 60,000 people like, ‘Yeah, AB!’ My f—ing adrenaline got so high. I just got too sexy for my clothes but…I started giving the fans what they wanted. They want gloves, they want shirts.”
He added, “How could you treat a person like that when they can’t work. You just cut ’em off the sideline? Like what am I a joke now?”
Coach Bruce Arians, who, like Brady, publicly vouched for Brown, and kept him on the team despite his three-game suspension, said there was never a conversation with Brown about his ankle during the game. Arians said he never told him he was too hurt to continue.
The two texted about his ankle during the week, with Brown posting screen shots of the conversation and Arians confirming that those were authentic. Brown was on the injury report after missing practice Thursday and Friday but participated in Saturday’s walk-though and he was cleared to practice. But Brown said he was too hurt to continue playing.
“It’s about integrity. If you’ve got a player, players have rights. You’ve got a right to tell the coach, ‘Coach, I can’t go in the game,'” Brown said. “If it made the coach irrational or emotional, I can’t do my job, then that’s not humane.”
Brown indicated that he would like to continue playing football after he undergoes ankle surgery.
“Of course I’m planning on playing football next season. You see what I’ve been able to do on a hurt ankle?” Brown said. “It’s been four years since I’ve been able to be in this situation where I could be in good health and a good team that really has my back. These guys have been treating me to the opposite of who I am and I’ve been able to accept that role for a couple years out of respect. But I’m looking forward to getting my ankle cleaned up, I’m looking forward to reigniting my career. I’m excited about a restart of next year and I look forward to the opportunities that the NFL — if that’s a possibility — have for me.”