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Antonio Brown says he had serious ankle injury against Jets: ‘I didn’t quit. I was cut.’

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 1/6/2022 Mark Maske
Antonio Brown gestured to the crowd as he left the field Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (Andrew Mills/NJ Advance Media/AP) © Andrew Mills/AP Antonio Brown gestured to the crowd as he left the field Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (Andrew Mills/NJ Advance Media/AP)

Antonio Brown said Wednesday that he was suffering from a serious ankle injury and was unable to reenter the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ game Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J., against the New York Jets. The wide receiver discarded his jersey on the sideline and left the field shirtless only after being told that he was done with the team, he said.

“I didn’t quit,” Brown said in a lengthy statement issued through his attorney. “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 [percent] inaccurate. Not only did he know I missed several games with the injury, he and I exchanged texts days before the game where he clearly acknowledged my injury.”

Brown said he will undergo surgery on the ankle. He did not refer to Buccaneers Coach Bruce Arians by name but appeared to chronicle a sideline verbal dispute with Arians during Sunday’s game that led to Brown’s exit.

“I played until it was clear that I could not use my ankle to safely perform my playing responsibilities,” Brown said. “On top of that, the pain was extreme. 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.”

The NFL Players Association will look into Brown’s assertions regarding the Buccaneers’ handling of his ankle injury, according to a person familiar with the matter, who added Thursday that is standard procedure and would occur with any player involved in such a situation.

The Buccaneers declined to immediately respond Wednesday night to Brown’s statement. Arians said after Sunday’s game that Brown was no longer a member of the team. The coach then said Monday that his interactions with Brown on the sideline during Sunday’s game did not include any discussion of Brown suffering from an ankle injury.

Brown took to social media Thursday morning, posting an apparent text exchange that he had with Arians before the game about Brown’s injury and whether he would play. Brown also posted a text exchange with Alex Guerrero, the trainer for Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, in which Brown sought the return of half of a previously paid $100,000 fee if the two were “not going to work any more.”


Video: Sara Wals: Updates on Buccaneers-Antonio Brown situation (NFL)

Jenkins: Antonio Brown put his pain on display for all to see. Instead of helping, the Bucs cut bait.

The Buccaneers have not released Brown. The team has been in discussions with the NFL this week about procedural steps and the designation that the Buccaneers potentially will use for him, according to a person familiar with the deliberations. The NFLPA also has been involved, according to another person with knowledge of the discussions. Brown reportedly was not on hand for the Buccaneers’ practice Wednesday.

“First they cut me. Now they cage me,” Brown said. “Instead of asking how I felt or getting to the bottom of it, the team texted my camp promoting a totally false narrative that I randomly acted out without any explanation. They even told us in writing ‘don’t spin this’ any other way. I have stress, I have things I need to work on. But the worst part of this has been the Bucs’ repeated effort to portray this as a random outburst. 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.”

Brown tossed aside his jersey and shoulder pads on the Buccaneers’ sideline. He threw pieces of equipment into the stands before walking along the sideline to an end zone and then heading off the field through a tunnel. Fellow Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans was seen speaking to Brown on the sideline.

Brown was playing his second game for the Buccaneers since serving a three-game suspension imposed by the NFL for misrepresenting his vaccination status. Brown submitted a fake vaccination card but subsequently was legitimately vaccinated, a person familiar with the findings of the NFL’s review of that matter said at the time. He has a long history of off-field incidents spanning his tenures with several teams and signed with the Buccaneers last season as he completed an eight-game suspension by the league for violating the personal conduct policy.

“I make mistakes,” Brown said in Wednesday’s statement, his first public comments on Sunday’s incident. “I’m working on myself and I have positive influences around me. But one thing I don’t do is shy away from playing hard on the field. No one can accuse me of not giving it my all every play.”

Brown said he “relented to pressure directly from my coach to play injured” and received “what I now know was a powerful and sometimes dangerous painkiller that the NFLPA has warned against using.” He said Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht “acknowledged after the game in text messages to my camp that I did tell coach about my ankle pain on Sunday.”

Trailing the Jets at the time “was frustrating for all of us,” Brown said, but he added that the “trigger” to his reaction “was someone telling me that I’m not allowed to feel pain. I acknowledge my past. But my past does not make me a second class citizen. My past does not forfeit my right to be heard when I am in pain.”

Brown said he underwent an MRI exam Monday in New York that showed bone fragments in his ankle, a ligament “torn from the bone” and cartilage loss. He said he is scheduled to undergo surgery and is “looking forward to next season.” According to Brown, the Buccaneers “ordered” him “under penalty of discipline and with a few hours’ notice” to receive another medical opinion.

“What a joke,” Brown said. “They’re playing like I wasn’t cut, giving me a surprise attack ‘order’ to show up to another doctor with no reasonable notice, and setting this whole thing up as a basis to cut me because what they did on Sunday was not legitimate. Sorry, GM. I already received a confirming opinion from the Top Doc at the hospital you ‘ordered’ me to go to.”

Brown’s attorney, Sean Burstyn, said in a statement that Licht instructed Brown’s agent “to claim that the Bucs did nothing wrong and suggested that we should say this event was purely the product of mental illness. Now they’re subjecting him to behind the scenes arbitrary nonsense.”

Burstyn said Brown “never faked an injury in his life” and added: “It is incredible that people are pushing false rumors that what happened Sunday was the result of mental health issues and not a well known ankle injury. Why would they embark on a campaign of false concealment? To avoid responsibility for ignoring the risk of serious injury for the sake of winning a game.”

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