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KRYK: So why would the Bucs want Antonio Brown?


Antonio Brown. “AB.”

You probably have an opinion on him. If not as an NFL player, then surely for his infamy as one of the most self-centred and, some would add, morally deplorable figures in modern sport annals.

High bars to clear, those.

So, how to feel after word began leaking Friday night that one of last decade’s most dynamic wide receiver playmakers was en route to Tampa Bay, likely to sign with the already wideout-loaded Buccaneers?

Numerous reports say the 32-year-old Brown has agreed to terms with the Bucs on a one-year contract.

All because Tom Brady, Tampa Bay’s new quarterback this year, wants Brown on the roster, after the two struck a friendship during the latter’s cup of coffee early last season in New England — and even though Brady already is mega-spoiled with all-pro Mike Evans and Pro Bowler Chris Godwin as wide receivers, plus his old buddy Rob Gronkowski at tight end, and maybe the best trio of running backs in the league with Ronald (RoJo) Jones, Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy.

“WTF” might have been the top-trending acronym on Twitter by the time Friday turned into Saturday.

The Bucs reportedly are eye-balling their Week 9 home game against NFC South nemesis New Orleans for Brown’s on-field debut.

So what’s up here? Why would Bucs GM Jason Licht and savvy head coach Bruce Arians muck with — and risk potentially undermining — what’s been working? Tampa Bay is 4-2, leads the NFC South and has just begun to play with cohesion on offence, to complement a lights-out defence.

First, let’s summarize the past two years for Brown, a four-time all-pro and seven-time Pro Bowler in Pittsburgh from 2010-18, with 75 touchdown catches and a bunch of NFL receiving records to his credit.

Around this time two seasons ago, Brown’s occasional bouts of increasing internal petulance became more pronounced and even spilled onto the playing field. He publicly demanded the ball more. He once even sulked off the field rather than celebrate with teammates after QB Ben Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass to someone else.

In the last week of the 2018 season, while prepping for a game Pittsburgh had to win to have any post-season hopes, Brown became so enraged at some minor, verbal practice-field slight from Roethlisberger that he bolted straight home, then ignored texts and calls from coaches and teammates for a couple days. He showed up on game day expecting to play but head coach Mike Tomlin, at the end of his rope with Brown, wouldn’t even dress his No. 1 receiver.

Over the next three months Brown proceeded to publicly carve up everyone and everything to do with the Steelers, leaving the club no choice but to trade him, with no leverage to boot.

The then-Oakland Raiders bit, acquiring him in March 2019. They happily washed their hands of him less than six months later, after Brown self-manufactured a long string of self-topping, self-serving, self-centred, self-defending faux outrages. From getting frostbitten feet for not wearing socks in a low-temperature healing chamber; to his beyond-bizzare battle with the NFL to be allowed to continue wearing his outdated, banned, unsafe helmet model; to being fined for missing training-camp workouts; to nearly coming to blows over it all with Raiders GM Mike Mayock; to then being banned for two days of practices; to being reinstated, at least temporarily.

Brown orchestrated his outright release from the Raiders on Sept. 7, 2019, after 24 hours of epically unstable, embarrassing criticisms of the club he posted in videos and texts to social media.

That didn’t stop the Patriots from immediately signing him. Yet Brown lasted all of 14 days in New England. He played in one game, instantly showing on-field rapport with Brady (then in his last of 20 seasons with the Patriots); the duo connected four times, including once for a touchdown in a defeat of the Dolphins in Brown’s hometown of Miami.

The club was forced to cut Brown only days later, after three further head-shaking developments.

First, a former female personal trainer of Brown’s filed a civil suit in South Florida. She claimed Brown sexually assaulted her three times from 2017-18, including one incident of rape. Brown’s lawyer vehemently denied all accusations.

Secondly, Sports Illustrated published a slew of disturbing, theretofore unknown accusations against Brown that ranged from an alleged act of sexual misconduct, to stiffing charities, plus multiple other “domestic incidents.”

Thirdly, as a result of these Sports Illustrated stories, a woman mentioned in the series asked the NFL to intervene after she alleged Brown, in his second and final week as a Patriot, began harassing her.

The Pats cut Brown on Sept. 20. He hasn’t played a down of ball since.

Earlier this year the NFL slapped him with an eight-game suspension, not for any of the above incidents or criminal allegations — which the NFL is still investigating — but rather because Brown pleaded no contest this past June to a felony burglary/battery charge and two misdemeanors, after he allegedly attacked the driver of a moving van outside his home.

Whew. Some two years, eh?

And THIS guy suddenly is NOT going to be a distracting, disruptive presence in the Buccaneers locker room?

Maybe Licht and Arians, as the Tampa Bay Times reported Friday night, have “real concerns about the health of their (existing) receiving corps, which has begun to affect the rhythm of the passing game with Brady.”

Indeed, while Evans has somehow played through a bothersome ankle injury, Godwin and Scott Miller have been in and out with hamstring injuries.

Or maybe, Licht and Arians were worried that a strong NFC foe that could block the Bucs’ intended path to the Super Bowl would sign Brown. Such as New Orleans or Seattle. Even if Brown doesn’t make any appreciable impact in Tampa Bay, he for sure won’t make any impact now on the Saints or Seahawks, will he?

In January 2019, Arians said on an ESPN podcast that Brown — whom he coached in 2010 and 2011 as Steelers offensive coordinator — was “too much” of a “diva,” even though he said he likes Brown and admires that he “plays as hard as anybody on Sunday, and he practises hard.”

You can’t find anyone, even on the Steelers or Raiders, who’d disagree with that last.

And Brady, by all reports, has some say on his surrounding talent in Tampa, and has badly wanted Brown on the Bucs since summer.

For Brown now it all comes down to this, as Arians pointed out last year: “He’s just gotta make better decisions.” Especially off the field.

Guess we’ll find out soon enough if he’s capable of it.



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