TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have officially severed ties with Antonio Brown, terminating the contract of the mercurial receiver who claimed he was fired in the middle of a game for not playing through an ankle injury.

The Bucs announced the move Thursday, one day after Brown broke his silence on a bizarre exit from last Sunday’s victory over the New York Jets.

Brown removed his jersey, shoulder pads, undershirt and gloves, then left the field after a sideline exchange with Coach Bruce Arians, who said afterward that the player was no longer part of the team.

Brown, who has a long history of troubled behavior on and off the field, including being accused by two women of sexual assault – one claimed he raped her – said he left the field abruptly after he was cut for refusing to re-enter the game because of his ankle.

The receiver, who began his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, tossed some of his gear into the stands, did some jumping jacks and waved to fans at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., as he headed to the locker room.

“While Antonio did receive treatment on his ankle and was listed on the injury report the week leading up to last Sunday’s game, he was cleared to play by our medical team prior to the start of the game and at no point during the game did he indicate to our medical personnel that he could not play,” the Bucs said in a statement.


“We have attempted, multiple times throughout this week, to schedule an evaluation by an outside orthopedic specialist, yet Antonio has not complied,” the statement added. “Maintaining the health and wellness of our players is of the utmost importance to our organization.”

While not specifying which ankle was hurt, Brown – through a statement released by his attorney on Wednesday – said an MRI performed the day after the game showed broken bone fragments, a ligament tear and cartilage loss “which are beyond painful. You can see the bone bulging from the outside.”

Arians said Monday that Brown did not claim he was injured when he refused to continue playing against the Jets. The coach has declined to discuss specifics of the sideline conversation and insisted he had “no clue” why Brown reacted the way he did.

Despite saying after the game that Brown was no longer a part of the defending Super Bowl champions, the 33-year-old receiver had remained on the roster. Wednesday’s injury report noted Brown’s absence from practice was “not injury related – personal.”

Brown’s statement, released through attorney Sean Burstyn, alleged a coverup. It also said the receiver has scheduled surgery to fix the injury.

“I didn’t quit. I was cut. I didn’t walk away from my brothers. I was thrown out,” Brown said.


“Being fired on the sideline for having a painful injury was bad enough. Then came their `spin.’ Coach denied on national television that he knew about my ankle. That’s 100% inaccurate,” the receiver added. “Not only did he know I missed several games with the injury, he and I exchanged texts days before the game where he clearly acknowledged my injury.”

Brown hurt his ankle during a victory at Philadelphia in mid-October and didn’t play again until Dec. 26 against Carolina, a two-month stretch that included a NFL-imposed, three-game suspension for misrepresenting his COVID-19 vaccination status.

Brown joined the Bucs midway through last season after serving an eight-game ban for multiple violations of the league’s personal conduct policy. At the time, Arians said there would be zero tolerance for the type of incidents that had derailed Brown’s career in the past.

The receiver helped Tampa Bay win its first Super Bowl title in nearly two decades last February and returned this season on a one-year, $3.1 million contract that could have been worth up to twice that with incentives.

Brown appeared in seven games this season, finishing with 42 receptions for 545 yards and four touchdowns. His streak of 144 consecutive games with at least one reception is the longest in the league among active players.

VIRUS: The Chicago Bears placed quarterback Justin Fields on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Thursday, likely sidelining him for the finale and ending his rookie season.


The Bears expected Fields to start at Minnesota on Sunday after missing the previous two games because of an ankle injury. That plan is now in doubt.

It’s been an up-and-down season for Fields, who has shown promising flashes and room to improve while dealing with injuries.

Fields has completed 58.9% of his passes for 1,870 yards. He has more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (seven) to go with a 73.2 passer rating.

Chicago is 2-8 in the games he has started, dropping seven straight with him in the lineup since wins over Detroit and Las Vegas in Weeks 4 and 5.

The Bears planned to have the former Ohio State star back up veteran Andy Dalton after trading up nine spots with the New York Giants to draft him with the No. 11 overall pick. That changed after Dalton was injured in Week 2 against Cincinnati.

Fields put together several promising performances in a row before cracking his ribs against Baltimore in Week 11. He missed the next two games, then returned in the loss to Green Bay on Dec. 12 before hurting his ankle in a loss to Minnesota at Soldier Field in Week 15.


The Bears (6-10) won the past two games, beating the Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants with Nick Foles and Dalton starting, after losing 8 of 9. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor would not say who would start in Fields’ place.

• A day after rookie Micah Parsons went on the COVID-19 list, the Dallas Cowboys placed offensive tackle Tyron Smith and cornerback Anthony Brown on the list going into Saturday’s game in Philadelphia against the Eagles.

• Cincinnati placed defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi on the COVID-19 list. He has a career-high seven sacks in his first season with the Bengals after spending his first four in Cleveland. Earlier in the week, the Bengals placed running back Joe Mixon, defensive tackle B.J. Hill, safety Vonn Bell, defensive end Trey Hendrickson, center Trey Hopkins and left guard Quinton Spain on the COVID-19 list.

• The Indianapolis Colts placed veteran safety Andrew Sendejo on the COVID-19 list, leaving them without a key defender as they try to clinch a playoff spot at Jacksonville. Sendejo has started 10 of the 12 games he has played. He has missed the past two after entering the concussion protocol.

CHIEFS: The Kansas City Chiefs will likely be without running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire for the second straight week when they visit the Broncos on Saturday in their crucial regular-season finale.

Edwards-Helaire hurt his shoulder early in the second half of a romp over the Steelers on Dec. 26. The Chiefs first feared he had broken his collarbone, but more tests came back negative and they hope to have him back for the playoffs.


BRONCOS: Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater wants to return for a ninth NFL season in 2022 whether that’s in Denver or elsewhere. He indicated Thursday that retirement hasn’t crossed his mind as he’s dealt with the aftereffects of his second concussion of the season, which came on Dec. 19 against the Bengals.

Bridgewater, who went on IR this week, wants to keep going in 2022. His one-year contract with the Broncos expires after this season. Last month, he denied that a report suggesting he wanted $25 million a year to keep playing came from his camp. But that figure would be middle of the road for a starting quarterback in the NFL.

OBIT: Greg Robinson, who won two Super Bowl rings with the Denver Broncos while spending nearly four decades coaching in the NFL and college, has died. He was 70.

Robinson’s wife, Laura, said he died Wednesday from a form of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“A lot of special memories,” she said Thursday. “That’s a pretty significant accomplishment to not get just one ring but get two.”

The soft-spoken Robinson also served as defensive coordinator for the New York Jets (1994) and Kansas City Chiefs (2001-03), but he attained his greatest success in six years with the Broncos (1995-2000) under Mike Shanahan. His defenses excelled as Denver won consecutive Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998.

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