“If You Played In The NFL … And You’re Worth Anything, You’ve Been Pressured”| Shannon Sharpe Can Relate To Antonio Brown’s Ankle, But Not His Beef

(Photo: Screenshot/Broncos)

Despite new developments in the Antonio Brown saga, where Brown is accusing the Tampa Bay Bucs organization of “forcing” him to play with an ankle injury and claiming “I didn’t quit. I was cut” in the middle of the game, there are still some respectable members of the NFL community who aren’t buying what he’s selling. 

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NFL Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe, who knows all about NFL culture, playing hurt and being pressured to play at less than 100 percent, still wasn’t buying AB’s victim act. 

“If you played in the National Football League and you’re worth anything, you’re one of the better players…then you’ve either been directly pressured or felt pressured from, the coaches, head coach, offensive position coach, athletic trainer, your teammates,” Sharpe said to co-host Skip Bayless on Undisputed thursday morning. 

Harkening back to his days as an All-Pro receiver for the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens, Sharpe said: 

“They (organization, fans, teammates) say, “84 we can count on you? You gonna be there right? Hey, bruh, don’t even worry about the practice, we just need you there on Sunday.”

Sharpe explained that carrying a superstar tag naturally comes with many burdens and an extra commitment not to let your team down.  

“You’re going to feel the pressure either directly or indirectly from your coaches, even from your teammates because they are counting on you,” Sharpe insisted.  “I believe that BA (Bruce Arians) probably asked AB to get into the game and he said no.” 

Sharpe says he doesn’t know Arians personally but from what he’s heard about the man, Arians is a straight shooter. Sharpe believes his response to Brown’s refusal to play went something like this: 

“Well if you ain’t getting in the game then get up outta here then. I believe that’s how it transpired,” Sharpe said. 

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Sharpe continued to give his personal analysis of the situation and said that even if BA tried to pressure Brown to play, “knowing he hasn’t practiced, knowing he was limping, even if that’s the case, even if everything that AB said is true, explain the exit. … There is no explanation,” Sharpe insists. 

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In Sharpe’s professional opinion, AB could have just casually walked to the locker room without causing a scene that has morphed into a life of its own on social media as the season wanes and the NFL playoffs begin. Then again, AB is always about the big splash, no matter how detrimental to the team. 

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As far as Brown’s potential legal claims — accusing the Bucs organization of misconduct as it pertains to his injury, prescribing treatment the NFLPA suggests against using and putting his career in jeopardy — Sharpe’s gut tells him that Brown wasn’t upset about anything other than the number of targets he was receiving in the game.

Sharpe had a lengthy history with ankle injuries throughout his NFL career and he’s familiar with how diva wideouts operate. The talking head offered this anecdote about the times he had to make decisions to play hurt. 

“I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve played in this league that Antonio Brown was in and I played 14 years, and I can speak to ankles probably better than anybody else because I dealt with a lot of ankle injuries. In 1993, from Week 7 on I shot my right ankle up every single week. From Week 10 on I shot both ankles up. From ’94 on I shot my right ankle up every single week.”

Sharpe then went on to explain how long the shots last and the kinds of external influences that determine how hurt you are and how much pain you feel.   

“By halftime, midway through the third quarter the shot wears off,
Sharpe said. “It didn’t hurt nearly as bad when I had a good game going. When I caught 10 (balls) for like  a buck or a buck-five (150 yards) and a TD it didn’t hurt that bad.”

Then Skip added, “sort of like Antonio’s game the week before,” referencing when AB was targeted 15 times and had the same ankle problems but no complaints.  

AB might have a gripe. But as a grown man you’re never forced to do anything. Sharpe isn’t discounting AB’s story, he’s just presenting an insight about what AB is going through. Helping casual fans understand that despite the social media hype, AB’s situation isn’t all that uncommon. Is this the explosive uncovering of a larger cultural problem in the NFL? Or is AB just throwing another tantrum. Either way, Shannon’s not trying to hear it.


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JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.