This week on a special edition of “The Pivot Podcast,” after years of bitter public feuding, former NFL star Ryan Clark, along with fellow former NFL stars and podcast co-hosts Channing Crowder and Fred Taylor, went face to face with his controversial former Steelers teammate, troubled superstar receiver Antonio “A.B.” Brown.
Among the many highlights of the jaw-droppingly frank conversation with Brown, the five-time All-Pro receiver, addresses concerns about his mental health while covering his face completely with a black mask (at the request of Clark), reveals his version of events surrounding his exit from the Bucs, explains the effects other players’ jealousy has had on him, why he’s “misunderstood” and expresses the lingering fear of disappearing from public view post-retirement, which is what’s driven his foray into the rap game.
This venture into rap, along with moving on from his time in Tampa Bay, signifies the pivot in Brown’s life and career that has come to define the deep conversations that take place in each and every episode of “The Pivot Podcast.”
Clark opens the episode by offering Brown an apology for his part in their simmering history of trading disparaging remarks through the media since playing together in Pittsburgh, a pivot from their longstanding feud.
“I should have reached out to you when I felt a certain way,” admitted Clark, after acknowledging the close relationship the pair once enjoyed. “Instead of attacking you, I should have called you and said, ‘Hey man, I didn’t really appreciate what you said, where is it coming from?’ On the other side of that, as things got along and you started to have your issues in Pittsburgh and I came out and spoke, I should have talked to you then as well. … I should have been better as an O.G. and better in the way I dealt with you. … I am formally apologizing, absolutely.”
The podcast also saw the current free agent Brown address the possibility of signing with the Dallas Cowboys this offseason after news surfaced that they were cutting star receiver Amari Cooper, opening up a spot and money for Brown.
“The plan is to get back to the game. Maybe Jerry Jones is thinking it’s sexy that I’m putting out all this motivation and hard work and energy,” said Brown. “Maybe he will want to harness that energy.”
The troubled and enigmatic seven-time Pro Bowl player has become equally known for frequent off-field brushes with authority, and whispers of declining mental health during his record-breaking football career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brown states that his infamous meltdown earlier this year, in which he tore off his uniform and walked off the field during a Bucs game against the New York Jets, had nothing to do with his mental state. For Brown, he believes that his tension with Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians dates back to their time together on the Steelers.
“You (Clark) and I know how Arians used to treat me,” said Brown. “You and I know that Bruce Arians said that A.B. isn’t smart enough to play the ‘X’ position. You and I know that Ben Roethlisberger had to say enough is enough and tell Bruce Arians that we have to play this guy. The public doesn’t know that.”
Brown claims he was being threatened to play with an injury by Arians and was then told to leave when he refused, Brown says within the correct context, his widely panned reaction during the Jets game was understandable from his viewpoint.
“At the end of the day, Bruce Arians has to respect me as a player,” exclaimed Brown. “I’m in the middle of a game, how you gonna tell me get the F out of here? You know how it is in a game with testosterone and how you act on game day. [To Clark] You probably would have slapped him. … If I can’t play, I can’t play. It’s a deltoid ligament. … I have to have surgery in the next couple weeks. … I know I make football look easy and I know I could run 17 or 18 miles per hour, which is not normal with a hurt ankle, but I can’t do that over the course of a year. I’ll kill myself. I don’t have no mental health problem. I’m just about respect. I stand on principle.”
According to Brown, problems with teammates, including Clark, stemmed from their jealousy of his then status as highest-paid player on the team and a common misunderstanding of his motivations and outlook.
“When you get that deal, you’re a marked man and to the older guys, there’s a certain level of humble you gotta be,” explained Brown. “People think I should act a certain way, or I should be a certain way. I should be content with going to the Oakland Raiders and making more money than I used to. But I want to win. People try to marginalize my vision because they don’t understand it. It’s OK to not understand something. It’s OK for us to work together and win together. … Ain’t nobody done it this way, it’s not understandable.”
Brown also claims because of his reputation he’s become easy fodder for a media always digging for salacious stories and sometimes even pouring fuel on fires to attract more viewers.
“They make money to talk about my name!” exclaimed Brown. “Why would they talk good? I’m sexy for the papers. I’m sexy for the headlines. That’s what they make money off [of]. Of course, they want me and R.C. to fight. He’s one of the greatest safeties in the NFL. He played 13 years and is a Super Bowl champion.”
After a customary humorous turn from the always-entertaining Crowder, in which he gets Brown to admit he doesn’t believe in sex before a game, the pensive Taylor relays his tremendous respect for Brown’s on-field accomplishments, then switches the conversation to Brown’s current mental state, his friendship with lightning rod rapper Kanye West and his intention to continue his career in hip-hop as part of his strategy to remain relevant after football.
It was recently revealed that Brown, who goes by the stage name “A.B.” while rapping, is set to perform at this year’s Rolling Loud festival in July in Miami as the final act before West takes the stage.
Life is about living and creating opportunities to put yourself in good positions,” Brown asserted. “I will still get opportunities to play once I get my ankle surgery. I’m an iconic player. There’s never been an iconic player in football. … A lot of guys get cut; they don’t get a lot of opportunities to transition their lives beyond just playing football. I’m one of those Shaquille O’Neal type of guys, but it just so happens to be in football. I’m increasing. The illusion is that football players are supposed to die out. They’re supposed to go report the news for other players.”
Clark, who appears to be biting his lip during several portions of the interview while Brown strangely covers his face with a black mask and occasionally throws what sound like subtle shots at his former teammate, finally bursts from the weight of listening to Brown’s version of events in Pittsburgh.
“AB, that’s not why we were fighting you. We were fighting you because you believed you were the team!” exclaimed Clark. “From me: Antonio Brown is full of sh-t. Nobody cared about the money.”
This is one of the realest conversations we’ve heard from AB, and he kept it 100 according to how he sees it and let everyone know that he has no plans to be a forgotten athlete. Clark kept it funky too, Brown even admits Clark is an Alpha male, so no corners were cut in this pow-wow. It’s good they quashed their beef, and maybe they can even work toward rekindling a friendship. AB is in search of a life after football that is filled with personal fulfillment, mutual respect, self-exploration and, most important, peace of mind.
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