Antonio Brown's Future Is in the Hands of Bruce Arians
Antonio Brown, the wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has one more week left on his three-game suspension, but his future with the team is still up in the air.
On Monday, Dec. 13, Arians told the media, "I haven't made that determination yet, but we'll see how it goes."
Brown and safety Mike Edwards were both suspended on December 2 for using fake COVID-19 vaccine cards, which are also illegal because they have a forged federal symbol.
Originally, Arians said he wouldn't make a final decision on Brown and Edwards until the suspension was over.
"We'll talk as an organization," Arians said of the week leading up to the Bucs' Week 16 game against Carolina on December 26.
"It's coming up soon, and we'll let everyone know as soon as we know."
When Brown signed as a free agent in 2020, Arians stated that the former All-Pro could be done with the Bucs.
Brown joined the Bucs after being sidelined for the first half of the 2020 season due to a slew of legal issues.
In October 2020, Arians told Pro Football Talk's Peter King, "If he screws up one time, he's gone. I don't think he will because he wants to play."
Instead of bringing in a medical expert to urge the Bucs to vaccinate, Arians took it upon himself in the offseason to get the team vaccinated.
According to the CDC, Arians, 69, and offensive consultant Tom Moore, 83, are at risk for COVID-19, and breakthrough cases do occur in vaccinated people, sometimes leading to hospitalization.
According to Greg Auman of The Athletic, Arians believes this team has "done an amazing job" following COVID-19 protocols.
As a result of the team's efforts, Arians agreed that Brown and Edwards' "misrepresentation" is even worse.
"It irritates me," Arians said, according to Auman.
In terms of pure football, the Buccaneers have found their way without Brown.
After a fourth-straight win on Sunday, Dec.12, the Bucs are 5-3 without him, and quarterback Tom Brady has plenty of talented skill players to throw to. The Bucs could have cut Brown on Dec.3 but didn't, as Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times pointed out on Dec.4.
When Brown has played this season, Tampa Bay has a 5-0 record.
In those games, he has 29 catches for 418 yards and four touchdowns.
After Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, the Bucs haven't found anything close to that level of production from a third receiver.
As Stroud alluded to, Bucs quarterback Tom Brady, who pushed for Brown to join the Bucs in 2020, is likely to want Brown to stay. Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer also wrote that Brady "would be upset if Brown gets released."
Since joining the Bucs, Arians and the Bucs haven't let Brown go because of other off-field issues.
Brown, for example, broke a security camera a week before joining the Buccaneers in October 2020.
"He's been a model citizen, and if and when he isn't, we'll move on," Arians said in November 2020 on SiriusXM NFL Radio.
Brown's model citizenship hasn't translated into a spotless Buccaneer career.
On May 12, 2021, he was served with a new civil lawsuit stemming from an altercation with a mover in January 2020.
Brown could also be sued by his chef, Steven Ruiz, in 2022 because he owes him $10,000.
Ruiz was also the one who brought up Brown's phony vaccine card accusation.
Brady clearly wants Brown in Tampa Bay, and Arians and the Bucs haven't dismissed him yet.