No one really knew how this was going to work out. You hear the phrase “the Buccaneers have agreed to sign Antonio Brown” and immediately you think about the way he forced the Steelers to trade him. Then you think about how he forced his way out of the Raiders’ organization. Then one game in New England and boom - allegations, lawsuits, and suspension.
The Buccaneers have had their issues with troubled players in the past. Some worked out, most didn’t. But never before have they had the leadership and structure in place to take on these troubled players with the knowledge or expectation that they could keep the player in-check and prevent any issues from poisoning the team. Some would argue that Leonard Fournette was that type of player but he was a seamless transition into the Bucs’ facility.
With Brown, you had questionable character, very public outbursts - including one aimed at Bucs head coach Bruce Arians - and volatility over the last eighteen months. All that said, Brown has been a model citizen since entering the Advent Health Training Facility in Tampa and has been a key contributor to the offense. The Bucs not only expect AB to be ready to go on Super Bowl Sunday but they want him back in 2021. That shows how impressed they’ve been with not only his production but his attitude and his personality within the locker room.
I don’t think there’s any question that AB knew this was his last chance and any problems would not only send him packing from Tampa but may potentially signal his exit from the league. When GM Jason Licht spoke about AB on Peter King’s podcast, he was very complimentary of Brown and the way things have been;
“He has been nothing short of spectacular. His attitude, his work ethic - which everybody knows he works very hard - but just his attitude. He’s actually been mentoring players. I’ve seen him on the sideline this year talking to Leonard Fournette saying, ‘Hey, be patient. Your time will come. Be a team player.’ And, it’s really a remarkable moment to see Antonio Brown being a mentor, it’s been spectacular.
Couldn’t be happier with him. What he’s done for us as a player but also what he’s done for us as a teammate. So, a lot of people wouldn’t think you would be saying that about him but I am.
I do know these guys (Brown and Antoine Winfield Jr.) desperately want to play. Whether it was the Super Bowl or a regular season game, they desperately want to play. I do know their mindset is right and I’m optimistic at this point but we’ll see.”
Antonio Brown’s comfortability with the offense got more evident later in the season, as we saw with his five touchdowns in four games - including the playoffs - down the stretch. Getting him back against the Chiefs would be crucial. Brown not only became a touchdown target, but was a reliable receiver on third downs when Tom Brady would look to move the sticks and defenses were keying on Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. That additional wrinkle of AB on the field puts defenses in a tough position.
For more on Jason Licht’s interview with Peter King, you can check out the episode in the player above or click here.