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Bucs coach says Antonio Brown is no longer with team after receiver leaves field during game

Antonio Brown's tenure with the Buccaneers ended with Sunday's bizarre incident. (Elsa/Getty Images)
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The controversies continued Sunday for wide receiver Antonio Brown as he wore out his welcome with another NFL team by shedding his Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform during a game against the New York Jets in East Rutherford, N.J., and walking off the field shirtless.

Coach Bruce Arians said after the game that Brown would not remain with the organization.

“He is no longer a Buc, all right?” Arians said during his postgame news conference. “That’s the end of the story. Let’s talk about the guys that went out there and won the game.”

The strange saga of Brown’s tempestuous NFL career just kept getting stranger.

With the defending Super Bowl champions facing the hapless Jets at MetLife Stadium, the mercurial wide receiver tossed aside his Buccaneers jersey and shoulder pads along the sideline. Brown then threw pieces of his equipment into the stands and left the field.

“That’s honestly a difficult situation. … I think everybody should find, hopefully do what they can to help him in ways he really needs it,” Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady said. “We all love him. We care about him deeply. We want to see him be at his best, and unfortunately it won’t be with our team.

“But we have a lot of friendships that will last. … The most important thing about football is the relationships with your friends and your teammates. And they go beyond the field. And I think everyone should be very compassionate and empathetic toward some very difficult things that are happening.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown was released from the team after removing his pads and jersey during the Jan. 2 game at MetLife Stadium, N.J. (Video: The Washington Post)

Brown, 33, was not available to comment. He 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 league’s review said at the time. Buccaneers safety Mike Edwards and free agent wide receiver John Franklin III, who had formerly been with the team, were given identical penalties for the same infraction.

Arians allowed Brown to rejoin the team even though he’d told Football Morning in America when the Buccaneers signed Brown last season — as Brown completed an eight-game suspension by the league for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy — that if he “screws up one time, he’s gone.”

Arians said circumstances had changed and it was in the Buccaneers’ best interests to allow Brown to return. But Sunday’s incident exhausted Arians’s patience.

“I’m not talking about it,” Arians said later during his postgame news conference. “He’s not a part of the Bucs.”

According to a report by WATB Sports, Brown was benched by Arians before his exit. Fox reported that Arians twice tried to get Brown to reenter the game and Brown refused both times. Fellow Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans was seen attempting to calm Brown before he left.

Antonio Brown walked away on his own terms Sunday. That should embarrass the NFL.

“I didn’t know too much until after the game, to be honest,” Brady said. “I was just out there playing, trying to do my job.”

Tight end Rob Gronkowski said he was similarly preoccupied.

“I really don’t know too much about it,” he said. “Obviously I heard a little bit about it. But I was really focused on the game. I’m sure I’m going to catch up with my teammates and coaches. … That’s part of the team, a situation like that. I just wish everyone the best in whatever the situation was.”

Buccaneers tailback Le’Veon Bell, also Brown’s teammate with the Pittsburgh Steelers, said he texted Brown after the game. Bell said Brown is a good person but is plagued by “obviously some bad decision-making at times.” Bell called the situation “tough.”

Brady had advocated for the team to sign Brown last season after the two played one game together in 2019 with the New England Patriots. Now the issue becomes whether any other NFL franchise will give Brown another opportunity.

Brown — once among NFL’s most productive receivers for the Steelers — never played a game for the Raiders, then based in Oakland, after being traded there before the 2019 season.

He was released by the Raiders, at his request, after a series of incidents that included a practice-field verbal confrontation with General Manager Mike Mayock. Brown also missed time because of injuries to his feet suffered while undergoing cryotherapy treatments and because of two failed grievances against the NFL as he sought to be permitted to wear a helmet not up the safety standards of the league and the NFL Players Association.

The Patriots signed Brown during the 2019 season after he was released by the Raiders, but they released him after one game amid mounting allegations of off-the-field misconduct. Brown pleaded no contest in 2020 to charges in Florida related to an incident involving a moving truck. He was sentenced to probation and community service.

The eight-game suspension imposed by the NFL was independent of allegations of 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 reportedly reached a settlement with Taylor last year.

Amid the chaos created by Brown’s departure Sunday, the Buccaneers overcame a 24-10 deficit to beat the Jets, 28-24.

“We’ve been in some crazy situations before,” Arians said. “But this was a very special one to come back and win that game.”