That Bruce Arians line about Antonio Brown “no longer” being a Tampa Bay Buccaneer? It has yet to come to fruition, and there’s a chance it won’t until after the season is finished.
Two sources familiar with ongoing conversations between the NFL, the Buccaneers and the NFL Players Association said there has been discussion about Brown’s outright release versus an injured reserve designation. The distinction between the two centers on Brown’s potential availability to other teams. If he were to be released, he would be subject to being claimed off waivers by another team for the remainder of this season, or becoming a free agent if he were to pass through waivers.
However, if Brown were placed on injured reserve — most likely in response to his camp’s claim of an ankle issue — it would essentially set him aside for the remainder of the season and out of reach of other teams. Tampa Bay could also seek to suspend Brown under the “Conduct Detrimental to the Club” penalty.
If the Bucs do cut Brown rather than placing him on injured reserve, it appears unlikely (but not completely impossible) that another team will claim him on waivers. Multiple wide receiver-needy playoff teams strongly stated to Yahoo Sports that they wouldn’t consider claiming Brown after he stripped off his equipment and shirt before leaving the field during the third quarter of Sunday’s game between the Bucs and New York Jets.
The cause of that bizarre moment continues to be in some dispute, although it is clear that Brown declined to enter the game when asked by the coaching staff. The reason why now appears to be forming, with Brown’s camp stating that it was a result of pain in Brown’s ankle, which he had been rehabilitating since mid-October — including during a three-game suspension for misrepresenting his vaccination status to the franchise.
While Brown returned in Week 16 to face the Carolina Panthers and caught 10 passes, he did miss practice on Thursday and Friday — absences that were noted as related to his previous ankle injury. While he didn’t appear to be in pain during the first half against the Jets, Brown’s camp has suggested his ankle was an issue coming out of halftime. However, Arians told reporters that Brown never mentioned an injury as the reason he wouldn’t enter the game when ordered in the third quarter.
The Tampa Bay Times reported on Tuesday that Brown’s representation had him visit with a surgeon outside of the team’s medical ranks and also undergo an MRI this week. The results, according to the Times report, “confirm[ed] his serious pain.” The Buccaneers have not responded to that report, nor indicated when there will be a change in Brown’s status with the team.