TAMPA, Fla. — Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians spoke in greater detail Monday about the decision to bring back wide receiver Antonio Brown after his latest suspension, despite Arians’ own comments last year in which he said of Brown, “If he screws up one time, he’s done.”
What convinced Arians to give Brown another chance?
“Well, the history has changed since that statement,” Arians said. “A lot of things went on last year that I was very proud of him. And I made a decision that was best for our football team.”
An NFL investigation found that Brown and third-year safety Mike Edwards had turned in fake vaccination cards, a violation of NFL rules and a federal crime. Each was suspended three games, through Sunday night’s loss to the New Orleans Saints.
But the Bucs thought Brown showed enough last year to warrant his return to the team, describing him as a “model citizen.” He immersed himself in the team culture and was focused. He practiced with maximum effort each day and supported teammates, even while seeing fewer targets than he was accustomed to.
Off the field, his felony probation stemming from the assault of a South Florida moving truck driver in January 2020 was terminated one year early, in June 2021, because of good behavior. He also settled a civil lawsuit filed by his former trainer Britney Taylor, who accused him of sexual assault. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
However, Brown was publicly accused last month by Steven Ruiz, his former live-in chef, of producing the fake vaccination card after Brown failed to pay Ruiz $10,000 he was owed when Brown attempted to renegotiate his bill. Ruiz told ESPN on Monday that Brown just settled his debt. Ruiz’s accusation led to the NFL’s investigation and Brown’s subsequent suspension.
The Bucs had signed Brown on the heels of an eight-game suspension last year, under similar circumstances to the one the Bucs face now. Wide receiver Chris Godwin was just lost for the regular season and postseason after suffering a torn ACL against the Saints. Wide receiver Mike Evans has a hamstring strain. Third receiver Breshad Perriman was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Friday. The decision about Brown was made prior to Evans’ and Godwin’s injuries, though.
Asked what the decision-making process was like for him, knowing that some might question how many chances Brown is owed given his disciplinary history, Arians responded, “I could give a s— what they think. The only thing I care about is this football team … and what’s best for us.”
Arians also was asked whether, on a personal level, he was concerned about players presenting themselves as vaccinated, given his status as a cancer survivor and being 69 years old, as well as having an 83-year-old assistant, Tom Moore, on the staff.
“No, I’m fine,” Arians said.