TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have officially severed ties with Antonio Brown, terminating the contract of the mercurial receiver who claimed he was fired in the middle of a game for not playing through an ankle injury.
The Bucs announced the move Thursday, one day after Brown broke his silence on a bizarre exit from last Sunday’s victory over the New York Jets.
Brown removed his jersey, shoulder pads, undershirt and gloves, then left the field after a sideline exchange with coach Bruce Arians, who said afterward that the player was no longer part of the team.
Brown, who has a long history of troubled behavior on and off the field, including being accused by two women of sexual assault — one claimed he raped her — said he walked off — tossing some of his gear into the stands and waving to fans at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., after he was cut for refusing to re-enter the game because of his ankle.
“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 Bucs said in a prepared statement.
“We have attempted, multiple times throughout this week, to schedule an evaluation by an outside orthopedic specialist, yet Antonio has not complied,” the statement added. “Maintaining the health and wellness of our players is of the utmost importance to our organization.”
While not specifying which ankle was hurt, Brown — through a statement released by his attorney on Wednesday — said an MRI performed the day after the game showed broken bone fragments, a ligament tear and cartilage loss “which are beyond painful. You can see the bone bulging from the outside.”
Arians said Monday that Brown did not claim he was injured when he refused to continue playing against the Jets. The coach has declined to discuss specifics of the sideline conversation and insisted he had “no clue” why Brown reacted the way he did.
Despite saying after the game that Brown was no longer a part of the defending Super Bowl champions, the 33-year-old receiver had remained on the roster. Wednesday’s injury report noted Brown’s absence from practice was “not injury related — personal.”
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