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As Buccaneers players return for another Super Bowl run, Antonio Brown is noticeably absent

The player who should be ready to return the most, is the last to come back.

NFL: Super Bowl LV-Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t have a winning culture. The franchise itself is not a winner. There have been winning teams in this franchise’s history, but not enough to call this a winning franchise. Yet.

This culture of winning exists in the current version of the Buccaneers franchise like it existed twenty years ago. In between, well, the culture was diverse while it resulted in similarly disappointing outcomes time after time.

When Bruce Arians arrived, swagger came with him. The quarterback whisperer brought an expectation of winning. Arians doesn’t coach just to coach. He coaches to win.

So when the team brought Tom Brady aboard in the 2020 off-season, it was a power move. A move to get the team moving in a winning direction. No time to wait for the sails to catch the wind. The team needed some nitrous. And Brady launched them all the way to Super Bowl 55.

Of course, he wasn’t the only one. Other players had a hand in it too. Leonard Fournette was another newcomer who played a valuable role several times during the season, but especially down the stretch.

NFL: Super Bowl LV-Champion Tampa Bay Buccanners Boat Parade Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Shaquil Barrett, two years removed from being a Denver Broncos back-up. Ndamukong Suh, the journeyman defensive lineman who was stylistically and the play-style opposite of previous Buccaneers linemen, in a bad way - to some.

Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Ryan Succop, Lavonte David, and Antonio Brown were big parts of the winning culture forged in the most unique season of them all. And they all did it on expiring contracts.

So far, all the starters have come back. Taking team-friendly deals, with the only exception being Godwin on the franchise tag, which can’t be negotiated. Some of the other deals are friendly in dollar amount, and others because of the terms.

The band is back for another tour. Now they just need the back-up singers. Andrew Adams flew off to the Philadelphia Eagles. Ryan Smith is off to the Los Angeles Chargers in search of further special teams glory and a role on the defense.

It’s never fun to watch players like Adams and Smith leave, but it’s part of the business. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. What is out of the ordinary, or at least beyond what’s expected, is the absence of Antonio Brown for the new tour card.

We don’t have to tell you about Brown. Bounced from the Pittsburgh Steelers in the midst of a Hall of Fame-caliber career, signed with the Oakland Raiders only to depart under a storm cloud covering of drama. Off-field legal and even discouraging less than legal issues. Then to the New England Patriots for one game, ultimately leading to his banishment for half of the 2020 NFL season.

Upon his return. The head coach who stood fast against bringing Brown into his winning culture, on the presumed advisement and vouching of his Hall of Fame quarterback, allowed Brown to join a train midway through the trip to Tampa, Florida in February.

The culture Arians speaks of when commenting on the willingness and drive of so many untroubled and unburdened players to return to the team, welcomed Brown with open arms when so many wanted to leave him in the pro football cold. An outsider, because he cast himself out.

Now, the Buccaneers have reportedly offered Brown the chance to come back for another seat at the dinner table. Another chance to show he can behave. This time, for a full season.

So what’s the hold-up? Brown is. At least according to reports.

Coach Arians was asked about the wide receiver group specifically during Tuesday’s media session by Greg Auman of The Athletic,

“There’s offers out there,” said Arians. “We’ll just see how it goes.”

The question now is, what is Brown waiting for? The same man who said on Instagram not too long ago he and Fournette would ‘figure it out’ with the Bucs is now leaving the franchise who not only gave him a chance to recover his fading NFL career but become a Super Bowl Champion in the process, waiting?

Brown won’t find a better chance to win. He won’t find a better group of teammates to lift him up, or a quarterback who believes in him as much as Brady has already demonstrated he does.

So it seems to me he’s either out for more money or likes being the remaining loose thread. Either way, I hope the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t planning on waiting too long for a player who needs them more than they need him. Especially with a fresh new class of talented wide receivers about to enter the NFL who would love to play with Godwin, Mike Evans, Scotty Miller, and Tyler Johnson.

Or maybe AB actually wants to come back, but the Bucs want Larry Fitzgerald and are waiting on his decision. Yep, it's that time of the year folks.