By Wayne Redshaw
Antonio Brown’s bizarre, third-quarter exit from the Jan. 2 NFL game between Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets while it was in progress reminded me of a scene from the movie “Slap Shot.”
That movie, starring Paul Newman, came out in 1977. Newman played Reggie Dunlop as the playing coach of the Charlestown Chiefs and he instructed his players to play “goon hockey.” One member, Ned Braden, played by Micheal Ontkean, refused and after sulking on the bench a few shifts skated out on the ice and to music started stripping down his gear piece by piece and tossed items one by one into the crowd.
Brown’s meltdown showed him taking off his sweater and shoulder pads and leaving them on the ground near the Tampa Bay bench. As he strolled towards the exit he took off his gloves tossing them into the stands. Then he ripped off his sweatshirt, rolled it into a ball and heaved it to the fans. After a few waves to the crowd Brown disappeared down the tunnel.
Unfortunately, the Brown exit was no scene from a movie or for a future movie. And there was no music when he peeled off his gear. It was real and that’s the sad part. It was embarrassing not only to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but to the National Football League in general. After all, the incident was not only shown live on television at the time but has been replayed over and over on national TV networks and has been a hot topic on social media for days after.
The outbreak was just another chapter in the Antonio Brown saga as a professional football player. Despite the fact that he is a talented player when he wants to be, he has also been a problem with his antics both on and off the field. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010 and wore out his welcome by 2019 and they traded him to the Oakland Raiders. However, he never played a game for the Raiders as he was cut before the season opener.
Brown landed with the New England Patriots but after one game he was gone due to some activity he had encountered off the field.
In 2020 Brown signed on with Tampa Bay. But before he could play for the Bucs he had to serve an eight-game suspension stemming from violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He eventually joined the Buccaneers after the suspension and would earn a Super Bowl ring as Tampa Bay dethroned the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs.
This season, Brown had to sit out a three-game suspension for misrepresenting his Covid-19 vaccination status. Then there was his latest meltdown witnessed over and over by millions.
Brown is no longer a member of the Buccaneers as the club terminated his contract with one regular season game remaining plus the playoffs – Tampa’s first game being today against the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s free to go anywhere so it will be interesting to see if there are other clubs willing to take a chance. Brown has had four chances now and he’s blown every one.
Does he deserve a fifth chance? In my opinion no. However, don’t be surprised if he lands with some club next season or during the off-season. There are 28 other NFL clubs he hasn’t played for, maybe one more team will give him the opportunity.
At 33 years old and with a haunting track record, especially off the field, time is running out on the wide receiver. I would like to see the NFL or the Player’s Association step in and give him the help he needs. Hopefully, Antonio Brown will get that help. But going to another club is not the answer as he doesn’t know how to clean up his act.
(Wayne Redshaw has covered sports in Niagara for over 50 years, 33 and a half at the Welland Tribune. He was publisher of FORE! Golfers Only for 12 years and wrote for various newspapers and magazines in Canada and the United States. Watch for his column, Wayne’s View, on the blog.)