Antonio Brown: What we know about WR's 'cover-up' allegations; Buccaneers' response; NFL future – USA TODAY

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The saga of Antonio Brown continues to play out as teams prepare for the final week of the regular season.
Brown’s season came to an end Sunday against the New York Jets when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver took off his uniform and pads in the third quarter with the Bucs trailing by two touchdowns. Brown eventually left the field with no shirt, throwing it and his gloves into the stands before leaving the stadium.
On Wednesday night, Brown released a lengthy statement via his attorney in which he tried to explain what happened on Sunday. The wide receiver said he was pressured to play injured. On Thursday, the Buccaneers officially cut Brown and terminated his contract, while also explaining their side of the story.
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According to a statement released from his lawyer, Sean Burstyn, Brown said he was forced to play on an injured ankle and he discussed this with head coach Bruce Arians. The seven-time Pro Bowler said that an MRI taken Monday showed his ankle had broken bone fragments, a torn ligament and cartilage loss.
“I didn’t quit. I was cut. I didn’t walk away from my brothers. I was thrown out,” Brown said in the statement. 
Brown also said the team is covering up his medical condition. His lawyer said in a statement that people are portraying Brown’s sudden exit as the result of “mental health issues” and not his ankle injury.
“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 said.
On Thursday morning, Brown released the purported text messages between him and Arians that show a photo of his ankle being worked on and a message that says he is unable to “get to full speed.” According to Brown’s screengrab of the messages, Arians told Brown to see him in the morning.
The NFL Players Association plans to investigate Brown’s claims against Buccaneers, although Brown has not contacted the players’ union.
Arians said that Brown was “no longer a Buc” after the team’s 27-24 win over the Jets on Sunday, but Brown’s status with the Buccaneers became official on Thursday when the team released him.
In the announcement of Brown’s release, the Bucs said Brown was cleared to play Sunday by their medical team and that “at no point during the game did (Brown) indicate to our medical personnel that he could not play.” The Bucs said they have attempted to schedule a specialist to look at his ankle, but Brown has refused to comply. General manager Jason Licht told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Brown asked for the remaining $2 million in incentives in his contract be guaranteed. The team declined that request.
“At no point in time during that game did he ever ask a trainer or a doctor about his ankle,” Arians said Thursday. “That’s the normal protocol. You go through protocols during games. I was never notified of it. That was the disturbing thing when we were looking for him to go back into the game.”
Arians said that Brown was upset at halftime about targets, but the situation was resolved. In the third quarter, the Bucs called for a grouping that Brown had played in throughout the game.
“He refused to go in the game,” Arians said. “That’s when I looked back and saw him basically wave off the coach. I then went back and approached him about what was going on. ‘I ain’t playing. What’s going on? I ain’t getting the ball.’ That’s when I said: ‘You’re done. Get the (expletive) out of here.’ And that’s the end of it.”
Brown has now been a part of three different franchises since the 2019 season. Brown is only 33 years old and has shown to be a productive receiver when healthy.
Brown ended his statement through his lawyer: “Once my surgery is complete, I’ll be back to 100% and looking forward to next season. Business gonna be BOOMIN!”
If this is his last stop, Brown will finish his career with 12,291 yards and 83 touchdowns on 928 receptions, which is second among active players. His receiving yards are third behind Larry Fitzgerald and Julio Jones.
In 2019, Brown was accused of sexual assault by his former trainer, Britney Taylor. Days later, a second account of sexual misconduct was reported by Sports Illustrated. It led to his release by the New England Patriots.
In January 2020, Brown was charged with felony burglary with battery and two misdemeanors for an incident with a moving truck driver. He pleaded no contest and received two years of probation, 100 hours of community service and was ordered to have a psych evaluation and attend an anger management program.
He was suspended by the league for eight games for multiple violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy before the 2020 season. 
The NFL gave Brown a three-game ban in December for violating NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 protocols for misrepresenting his vaccination status. Brown obtained a fake vaccination card, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Contributing: Chris Bumbaca; Jim Reineking; Lorenzo Reyes


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