Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Antonio Brown, 33, released an official statement via his attorney Sean Burstyn, discussing his controversial midgame departure.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 6, 2022
Brown accused the Bucs of demanding that he participate in Sunday's game while he had an ankle injury and said the organization is engaging in an "ongoing cover-up."
"Because of my commitment to the game, I relented to pressure directly from my coach to play injured," Brown wrote, according to CBS Sports. "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."
Brown made the decision to stop playing because he felt he could no longer "safely perform my playing responsibilities," and said the pain had become "extreme."
The athlete adds that the Bucs' head coach Bruce Arians knew of his injury, yet he was insistent that he play, and when Brown refused the coach shouted at the receiver that he was "done."
“Oh AB left cause the bucs didn’t want him to get his incentives”
“Oh AB left cause they were trying to make him play hurt”
Antonio Brown: pic.twitter.com/MMYM4TltjU
— WhoDatTrap (@FreeTrap2x) January 3, 2022
"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,'" Brown said in his statement, according to the New York Post. "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," Brown continued.
Brown accused Arians of being dishonest when he denied knowledge of the receiver's ankle injury.
"That's 100% inaccurate," Brown wrote, according to CBS News. "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. He obviously knew I was on the injury list. And the GM acknowledged after the game in text messages to my camp that I did tell coach about my ankle pain on Sunday."
Due to Brown's injury, he was unable to play in five games during the season, and he left Sunday's game against the New York Jets in the third quarter. Brown removed his shoulder pads, jersey and undershirt, throwing some of the items into the crowd, then ran to the locker room while the game was still in session.
"They threw me out like an animal and I refused to wear their brand on my body, so I took my jersey off," he said in his statement.
Arians said Brown was "no longer a Buc," yet the receiver remains on the team's roster during a post-game media interview.
"As part of their ongoing cover-up, they are acting like I wasn't cut and now demanding that I see a doctor of their choice to examine my ankle," Brown continued in his statement.
Brown said he took an MRI exam that showed he had torn ligaments and cartilage loss. He added that two orthopedic surgeons at the Hospital for Special Surgery read the MRI that showed Brown had broken fragments in his ankle.
He said he's scheduled to undergo surgery to heal his ankle at New York City's Hospital for Special Surgery.
"Not realizing that I had already scheduled a surgery at HSS, the Bucs 'ordered' me under penalty of discipline and with a few hours notice to show up to a more junior doctor at HSS for another opinion. What a joke, Brown continued. "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."
Burstyn, Brown's attorney, came to his defense in a tweet.
"Antonio Brown never faked an injury in his life. 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. Mental health is important, but so is basic dignity. #CutAndCage," Burstyn wrote.
After Brown recovers from his surgery, he said he intends to play again next season.