Antonio Brown has always skirted the line of what is acceptable in the NFL.
He entered the Terrell Owens lane of the player you love to hate; he is one of the few sports entertainment professionals that gets paid for bad behavior.
Now that bad behavior might have run its course with the NFL and team brass. According to head coach Bruce Arians, there is no clear decision on whether wide receiver Antonio Brown will be back with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
🏈 Three weeks ago, on the 19th of November, when news of Antonio Browns possible fake vaccination card surfaced, @Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians and team said that the league and team had done their due diligence 🤨
— AS English (@English_AS) December 9, 2021
Whole Lotta Ambiguity
Brown has been on a three-game suspension based on a fraudulent COVID-19 vaccine card.
Recently, when Coach Arians was asked about the chances of AB’s return to the team, Arians was vague, leaving his return in extreme limbo.
According to reports from the Tampa Bay Times, “Bucs coach Bruce Arians says he hasn’t made a determination on whether Antonio Brown will rejoin the team following his three-game suspension.”
Arians said only the cryptic “we’ll see how it goes” in responding to a question about Brown returning.
Looming Scandal: HOW MANY NFL PLAYERS ARE PLAYING WITH FAKE VACCINATION CARDS?
Mina Kimes says the NFL should model Antonio Brown's punishment for using a fake vaccine card to Evander Kane's suspension in the NHL if found guilty pic.twitter.com/ZznQgCChMK 02
— Tomthunkit™ (@TomthunkitsMind) December 15, 2021
When Things Fall Apart
A former All-Pro wideout, Brown received an NFL suspension after he was exposed for violating the league’s COVID-19 protocols. Brown’s personal chef revealed that a plot was afoot, even entangling Brown’s girlfriend, to obtain a fake vaccination card for the Mr. “Whole Lotta Money.”
After the investigation, the Bucs receiver was found to have actually obtained a fake vaccination card. The offense is a felony, and the league sanctioned his suspension without appeal.
However, since the discovery of Brown obtaining the fake card he reportedly has gotten get vaccinated.
According to the NFL Network, the NFL initially floated a longer suspension, to the tune of the six- to eight-game range.
Antonio Brown’s vaccination card pic.twitter.com/oVs5D44kta
— Wesley Hadfield (@wesleyhadfield) December 7, 2021
Brown, a Miami native, played three seasons of college football at Central Michigan University, earning All-America honors in 2008 and 2009 as a punt returner, before forgoing his senior season to enter the 2010 NFL draft. He was a sixth-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Brown finished his rookie season with 16 receptions for 167 yards in nine games as the Steelers advanced to Super Bowl XLV during that campaign, losing to the Green Bay Packers. During his second NFL season, he became the first player in NFL history to have more than 1,000 yards receiving and returning in the same year. Brown was selected as a punt returner for the 2012 Pro Bowl for his efforts.
In 2013, he became the only receiver in NFL history to record five receptions and at least 50 yards in every single game of an NFL season.
An Indelible Impression
Brown was traded to the Oakland Raiders in 2019 after a soured relationship with Steelers franchise QB Ben Rothlisberger. With the Raiders, he earned the moniker he turned into a rap song, “Whole Lotta Money,” when they made him the highest-paid receiver in the league.
But before he came to Tampa Bay, Brown solidified his reputation of being a problematic player.
He had an off-field confrontation with general manager Mike Mayock, leading to his release before ever playing a regular-season game. The NFL investigated him for sexual assault allegations against him while he was on the New England Patriots. He was subsequently cut after appearing in only one game.
Y’all Must Have Forgot
After learning of his suspension, Brown went to Instagram to remind people of his greatness with a highlight video.
“A Setback for A Setup! #crabsinthebucket #PureGold #wholelotta #Integrity,” he said in the post.
It is important to note that Brown was not alone in the NFL as an issuer of fake vax cards; fellow Buccaneer Mike Edwards and free agent John Franklin III were also found guilty of the infraction.
“Tampa Bay’s Antonio Brown and Mike Edwards have each been suspended without pay for the next three games,” the statement read.
Pictured! Antonio Brown's vaccination card. pic.twitter.com/yzyhmzCR4g
— Merry fleXMAS (@DannyFlexen) December 14, 2021
“Free agent John Franklin III, if signed by a club, is also ineligible to play in the next three games. All three players have accepted the discipline and waived their right of appeal. The suspensions are effective immediately.”
With the accomplished wide receiver eligible to return for Tampa Bay’s game against the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 26, Arians is in a challenging position.
Antonio Brown has become more notable for his antics than his on-field play, and any diminishment of that fact could seem like enabling. Brown is at a precipice when the NFL has an image issue, and the question of whether he is more an asset than a liability is at the core.
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