TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have dumped Antonio Brown.
The defending Super Bowl champions made the formal announcement Thursday afternoon, saying the controversial wide receiver's contract had been terminated.
"While Antonio did receive treatment on his ankle and was listed on the injury report the week leading up to last Sunday's game, he was cleared to play by our medical team prior to the start of the game and at no point during the game did he indicate to our medical personnel that he could not play," the NFL franchise wrote.
Brown's release from the team comes days after he abruptly departed shirtless in the middle of the Bucs vs. Jets game Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The stunning moment happened during the third quarter when game day cameras caught Brown heatedly taking off his jersey and shoulder pads before leaving the team's sideline. He'd then proceed to throw his undershirt and gloves into the stands and run into the locker room.
According to a prepared statement obtained from Brown's agent, Sean Burstyn, there was more to the wider receiver's exit than what meets the eye.
Brown claims head coach Bruce Arians pressured him to play through his ankle injury, but he "relented."
"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," his statement read.
After feeling like he couldn't play on his ankle anymore, Brown said he took a seat, at which point Arians approached him.
"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," the statement continues. "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!'"
But the Bucs head coach says that's not exactly the case. While addressing the media Thursday, Arians said he wanted to clear some things up.
"At no point in time during that game did he ever ask the trainer or doctor about his ankle," Arians said, adding that this type of action is standard protocol and that he was never notified of it. Arians also added that players cannot be forced to play, saying "it's their body" and their choice to step out on the field or not.
Around halftime, Arian says is when Brown became "upset" about "who was getting targeted." The head coach said players were able to calm Brown down before heading back out onto the field — but that was only temporary.
According to Arians, when the personnel group that Brown had "played in in the entire game" was called, the wide receiver refused to go into the game.
"That's when I looked back and saw him basically wave off the coach. I then went back, approached him about what was going on. 'I ain't playin.' What's going on? 'I ain't getting the ball.' That's when I said 'you're done. get the f out of here.' And that's the end of it," Arians explained.
As for the back and forth between the franchise and Brown regarding his ankle injury, Brown claims he went and got an "urgent MRI" on the ankle Monday that showed broken bone fragments, a torn ligament and cartilage loss.
"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's statement reads.
"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," he added.
The Buccaneers say they attempted "multiple times throughout this week, to schedule an evaluation by an outside orthopedic specialist, yet Antonio has not complied."
On Thursday, Brown also tweeted texts between him and Arians showing an exchange related to the status of his ankle injury.
“You saw the texts. It was out there. It was, ‘If you can go on Saturday, I want you with the team in case you can go.’ He participated in the Saturday walk-through like he was going, so there was never another question about it," Arians said addressing the messages.
And while the Bucs' head coach says he's hurt by what happened, right now, the team says it wants to focus on "maintaining the health and wellness" of its players.
"...I just still wish the best for him. Just get the help you need," Arians added.
It's unclear at this time if any further action will be taken by either the Bucs or Brown's camp. Brown had just returned from his suspension for misrepresenting his COVID-19 vaccination status.