The NFL suspended free agent wide receiver Antonio Brown for eight games Friday for what it called multiple violations of the league’s personal conduct policy, clarifying Brown’s playing status to some degree and perhaps clearing the way for him to make a return to the league.
“I look forward to new beginnings,” Brown wrote later Friday on Instagram. “I want to be the best version of myself on and off the field, and I will do my best to be a great teammate. I appreciate the NFL giving me the opportunity to continue to work on myself and improve.
“I am thankful and grateful for this opportunity to play a game that I truly love and I look forward to joining a new team soon. Thank you to my family and all those that have supported me. I will show the fans my appreciation for this second chance by having the best season of my career.”
Brown played in only one game last season for the New England Patriots, that after being traded by the Pittsburgh Steelers and released amid much rancor by the Raiders, then based in Oakland. He once was among the sport’s most productive pass-catchers, but his career was put on hold by his repeated off-field issues and the league’s investigation into his conduct.
He also pleaded no contest in June to charges in Florida related to an incident involving a moving truck in January.
Brown, 32, announced several times during the league’s investigation that he was done with the NFL and planned to retire, only to change his mind soon thereafter and announce otherwise. Most recently, he publicly urged the league to resolve its investigation and clarify his playing status.
He drew tepid interest from several teams during his time away. He visited the New Orleans Saints late last season and worked out for the team but was not signed. This week, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, the reigning league MVP, said during a video conference with reporters that he had once hoped the team would sign Brown and still held out some hopes of that. Jackson said that he had reported the details of a throwing session with Brown to the Ravens and had been impressed by Brown’s work ethic. Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said Thursday that he was not ruling out signing Brown but did not know if Brown is eligible at this point to be signed.
Brown indeed is eligible to be signed. There also has been speculation linking him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, home of former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Football Team. But Buccaneers Coach Bruce Arians has said that his team would not sign Brown. Washington’s new coach, Ron Rivera, said in June that Brown is “a great player and an impact guy” but suggested the team is committed to its young wide receivers.
Brown’s agent, Ed Wasielewski, wrote on Twitter that Brown “accepts this decision” and will not appeal the suspension, adding: “He is excited to resume his outstanding football career and is looking forward to playing in the 2020 season.”
If he is signed by a team before the season, Brown would be eligible to participate in that team’s training camp. His suspension takes effect Sept. 5, just before the NFL’s scheduled season-opening game between the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs. Brown if eligible to return after Week 8 of the regular season or, if he is signed by a team, after that team’s eighth game.
His suspension is without pay. The NFL said in its announcement of its decision that Brown “was directed to continue his program of counseling and treatment” and is “expected fully to cooperate with his clinicians.” Brown also was advised, the league said, “that any future violation of the Personal Conduct Policy will likely result in more significant discipline.”
According to a person familiar with the case, the NFL continues to investigate allegations of rape and sexual assault made against Brown by Britney Taylor, a former college classmate who later worked for him as a trainer. Brown denied the accusations and filed a counterclaim in response to a lawsuit filed by her. The NFL’s investigation into those allegations has reached no conclusions, according to the person familiar with the case, and remains open. Brown would face further discipline if the league concludes there were additional violations of the conduct policy, the person said.
The eight-game suspension was based on the alleged text messages and the case in Florida, according to that person. Another woman who painted a mural for Brown accused him of sending her threatening text messages after it was reported that she had ignored his unwanted sexual advances.
Brown reportedly was given two years of probation and 100 hours of community service as part of his no-contest plea in June to a felony burglary with battery charge and two misdemeanor charges stemming from the January incident outside his home in Hollywood, Fla., with the moving company. Brown reportedly also was ordered to attend an anger management program and undergo an evaluation as part of his plea, in which he accepted punishment without formally admitting guilt.
Brown was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection in nine seasons for the Steelers. He didn’t play a game for the Raiders and was released before the 2019 season at his request.