Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown said Wednesday he was fired “for having a painful injury” during a game Sunday.
Brown, who could be seen upset on the sideline during a game against the New York Jets, ultimately removed his uniform and shoulder pads, waved to the crowd and walked off the field mid-game.
In a statement, Brown said he had relented to pressure “directly from my coach” to play despite an injured ankle, getting a painkiller injection beforehand from the staff to help deal with the injury.
The seven-time NFL Pro Bowler doesn’t name the coach he is referring to in his statement, but attorney Sean Burstyn told CNN that Brown is referring to head coach Bruce Arians.
CNN has reached out to the Buccaneers for comment regarding Brown’s statement Wednesday.
Brown said in his statement he played until the ankle pain was extreme.
He said Arians came up to him on the sideline asking what was wrong, and that he explained it was his ankle. Brown claims Arians “ordered” him to get on the field, and Brown said he told him he couldn’t. Brown said Arians then shouted, “You’re done!” and that Arians ran his finger across his throat.
In a post-game interview Sunday, Arians told reporters, “He is no longer a Buc, alright? That’s the end of the story.”
On Monday, Arians told reporters that Brown didn’t tell him he was injured. “We had a conversation and he left the field,” Arians said. When asked if the conversation with Brown on the sideline was at all regarding an ankle injury, Arians replied, “No.”
“I wish him well,” Arians said. “I hope if he needs help, get some … It’s very hard because I do care about him.”
Brown said he had an MRI on Monday, which shows “broken bone fragments stuck in my ankle, the ligament torn from the bone, and cartilage loss, which are beyond painful,” according to the statement, and that he needs surgery.
Brown also addresses in his statement how he left the field.
“I know we were losing to the Jets and that was frustrating for all of us,” Brown said. “But I could not make football plays on that ankle. Yes, I walked off the field. But there’s a major difference between launching from the line and taking hits, compared to jogging off the field with a rush of emotions going through your mind. I am reflecting on my reaction, but there was a trigger. The trigger was telling me that I’m not allowed to feel pain.”
“Antonio Brown never faked an injury in his life,” Burstyn said. “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.”
While Brown’s future remains unclear, he was not released by the Buccaneers on Monday, according to the NFL’s transactions report.
Asked about the team not making an official transaction, Arians said Wednesday, “It’s a management decision, what’s happening right now,” and when asked if it was a matter of “how” and not “if” Brown will be removed from the team, Arians responded with, “Right.”
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