The Buccaneers released a statement confirming the wide receiver’s release and pushed back on Brown’s claims he tried to tell Buccaneers staff he was too injured to play.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown wipes his face as he leaves the field after throwing his equipment into the stands while his team is on offense during the third quarter of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Andrew Mills/NJ Advance Media via AP)
“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have terminated the contract of Antonio Brown, effective immediately. While Antonio did receive treatment on his ankle and was listed on the injury report the week leading up to last Sunday’s game, he was cleared to play by our medical team prior to the start of the game and at no point during the game did he indicate to our medical personnel that he could not play. We have attempted, multiple times throughout this week, to schedule an evaluation by an outside orthopedic specialist, yet Antonio has not complied. Maintaining the health and wellness of our players is of the utmost importance to our organization,” the team said.
On Sunday, Brown was seen on the sideline taking off his gear and throwing items into the stands before he ran across the end zone and into the tunnel, never to be seen on the football field again.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (81) makes a catch and goes the distance for the score during a game between the Miami Dolphins and the Buccaneers on Oct. 10, 2021, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
In the aftermath, Brown had released a new hip-hop single and thanked the Buccaneers for the opportunity. He was seen at a Brooklyn Nets game on Monday but didn’t release a full statement on his issues with the organization until Wednesday night.
Tom Brady (12) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reacts with Antonio Brown (81) during the second half of the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on Dec. 26, 2021, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
“Because of my commitment to the game, I relented to pressure directly from my coach to play injured. Despite the pain, I suited up, the staff injected me with what I now know was a powerful and sometimes dangerous painkiller that the NFLPA has warned against using, and I gave it my all for the team. I played until it was clear that I could not sue my ankle to safely perform my playing responsibilities. On top of that, the pain was extreme,” Brown said in a statement through his lawyer. “I took a seat on the sideline and 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. Not only did he know I missed several games with the injury, he and I exchanged tests days before the game where he clearly acknowledged my injury. He obviously knew I was on the injury list. And the GM (Jason Licht) acknowledged after the game in text messages to my camp that I did tell coach about my ankle pain on Sunday.”
Brown maintains he was “cut first” then he left. He also said he had an MRI on his ankle on Monday and it showed he had “broken bone fragments stuck in my ankle, the ligament torn from the bone, and cartilage loss, which are beyond painful.”
On Thursday, he released text messages allegedly showing his concerns about his ankle to coach Bruce Arians.
Arians later denied there was any issue over Brown’s ankle.
“Obviously, we let Antonio go today. Just to clear you up on some things that happened, at no point in time during that game did he ever ask the trainer or doctor about his ankle,” Arians told reporters during a presser after practice. “That’s the normal protocol. You go through protocol during games. I was never notified of it. So obviously that was the disturbing thing when we’re looking for him to go back in the game.”
Fox News’ Paulina Dedaj contributed to this report.