Bucs coach says Antonio Brown no longer with team after midgame exit

NJ Advance Media photo by Andrew Mills via AP / A N.J. State Police trooper watches as Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown throws his gloves into the stands during the third quarter of Sunday's game against the host New York Jets. Brown left the field and did not return, and after the Bucs rallied to win, coach Bruce Arians said the receiver was no longer part of the team.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Antonio Brown was apparently frustrated and angry. So he walked away.

From the football field on Sunday afternoon. From the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, likely for good. And quite possibly, from his NFL career.

The mercurial wide receiver was kicked off the team after a bizarre, shirtless exit at MetLife Stadium before Tom Brady coolly led the Bucs on a 93-yard drive in the final minutes for a 28-24 victory over the New York Jets.

After the game, coach Bruce Arians said Brown's time with the team - the same one Brown helped win the Super Bowl last season, his first in Tampa Bay - was over.

"He is no longer a Buc," Arians said. "All right? That's the end of the story. Let's talk about the guys who went out there and won the game."

Brown's midgame meltdown came late in the third quarter with Tampa Bay trailing 24-10. He appeared animated while talking to receiver Mike Evans, who tried to calm his teammate. But Brown stripped off his pads, jersey, gloves and T-shirt - tossing the gloves and T-shirt into the stands - and then walked bare-chested down the sideline and into the end zone. He then waved to fans as he jogged through the end zone and into the tunnel.

It appeared to be a show of frustration by Brown, who had three catches for 26 yards in the game.

"I'm not talking about it," Arians said. "He's not part of the Bucs."

The 33-year-old Brown was suspended last month for three games for violating the league's COVID-19 protocols. He also has a history of personal conduct issues and bizarre behavior.

The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder was an All-Pro first-team selection four times and made seven Pro Bowls during his first nine NFL seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who selected him in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL draft out of Central Michigan. His tenure with that team came to a bitter end, though, and he had short-lived stints with the Oakland Raiders - failing to make it to the regular season - and the New England Patriots before saying he was retiring.

He landed with the Bucs in 2020 after serving a league-issued suspension that forced him to miss the first half of the season, reuniting with Brady - New England's quarterback during Brown's lone game for the Patriots.

"It's a difficult situation," Brady said Sunday evening. "Everybody should do what they can to help him in ways that he really needs it. We all love him. We care about him deeply. We want to see him be at his best. Unfortunately, it won't be with our team. ... I think everyone should be very compassionate and empathetic toward some very difficult things that are happening."

Brady connected with Cameron Brate for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line shortly after Brown's exit, then finished the Bucs' rally with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Cyril Grayson with 15 seconds left. Le'Veon Bell ran in the 2-point conversion against his former team.

Tampa Bay's defense had stuffed Jets quarterback Zach Wilson on fourth-and-2 at the 7 for no gain with New York trying to seal the victory. Jets coach Robert Saleh said the play should have been a reverse to wide receiver Braxton Berrios, but Wilson had the option to sneak it based on the look.

"We did a very poor job of communicating that," Saleh said, adding that "it just makes you sick" because a handoff to Berrios would've likely been a first down.

Instead, it gave Brady and the Bucs (12-4) - who clinched the NFC South Division title a week earlier - the ball back with 2:12 left. That was more than enough time for the old pro to beat the Jets (4-12), a familiar rival during his days in the AFC East Division.

Brady finished 34-of-50 for 410 yards, three touchdowns and an interception for Tampa Bay, which had Arians back after he tested positive for the coronavirus early last week.

"We've been in some crazy situations before," Arians said, "but this was a very special one to come back and win that game."