Antonio Brown says Bucs pressured him to play with severe ankle injury, accuses them of 'ongoing cover-up'

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Antonio Brown released a statement on Wednesday blaming his "coach" for his midgame exit from the field on Sunday that preceded his still-pending release from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

The statement released through his lawyer Sean Burstyn was the first time Brown has directly addressed the incident in public. He doesn't reference Bruce Arians by name, but makes multiple references to an interaction with his "coach," whom he says pressured him to play with an injured ankle during Sunday's win over the New York Jets.

He wrote that when he told "coach" that he couldn't play, the coach didn't call for medical attention but told him "you're done." He also said that he was injected with a painkiller on gameday. He didn't specify what painkiller was used.

He wrote that he has since had an MRI that shows broken bone fragments, a torn ligament and loss of cartilage. It will require surgery, according to Brown.

"Because of my commitment to the game, I relented to pressure directly from my coach to play injured," Brown's statement reads. "Despite the pain, I suited up, the staff injected me with what I now know was a powerful and sometimes dangerous painkiller that the NFLPA has warned against using, and I gave it all for the team.

"I played until it was clear that I could not use my ankle to safely perform my playing responsibilities. On top of that, the pain was extreme. I took a seat on the sideline and my coach came up to me, very upset, and shouted ‘What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with you?'

"I told him ‘it’s my ankle.’ But he knew that. It was well-documented and we had discussed it. He then ordered me to get on the field. I said, ‘Coach, I can’t.’ He didn’t call for medical attention. Instead he shouted at me, ‘YOU’RE DONE!’ While he ran his finger across his throat. Coach was telling me that if I didn’t play hurt, then I was done with the Bucs.

"I didn’t quit. I was cut. I didn’t walk away from my brothers. I was thrown out.”

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 02:  Antonio Brown #81 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks on against the New York Jets during the game at MetLife Stadium on January 02, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Antonio Brown says he needs surgery on his injured ankle. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Brown then described the extent of his ankle injury.

“What they did not know until now is that on Monday morning I had an urgent MRI on my ankle," Brown continued. "It shows broken bone fragments stuck in my ankle, the ligament torn from the bone and cartilage loss, which are beyond painful. You can see the bone bulging from the outside. But that must and can be repaired.”

Brown also accused the Bucs of an "ongoing cover-up" and pressuring him to see one of their doctors after Arians announced that he was done with the team. The entire statement can be read here:

Burstyn released his own statement claiming that he's seen the MRI which showed "a piece of loose bone ... pressing into his ankle joint and a ligament snapped clean off the bone." He also called any discussion of Brown's exit from the field on Sunday being related to "mental health issues" a "false rumor." 

On Thursday morning, Brown tweeted several screenshots of what appeared to be texts shared between him and Arians just a few days before Brown's on-field exit, in which they discussed Brown's ankle. 

The Bucs didn't immediately respond to the statements which were released late Wednesday evening. 

Arians told reporters on Monday that Brown didn't tell him that he was injured on gameday and declined to go into detail about his conversation with Brown. 

Despite his actions on Sunday, the NFL has said that Brown won't be disciplined for his bizarre on-field departure. A spokesperson for the NFLPA said on Thursday that they intend to investigate Brown's claims of medical mismanagement, though Brown has not reached out to them with any details.

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