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Time for teams to stop enabling WR

January 9, 2022 at 4:12 a.m.

PITTSBURGH -- By releasing Antonio Brown, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have given every distressed general manager in the NFL another chance to prove how uncaring, unscrupulous and truly hypocritical they can be.

By allowing the former Steelers receiver to be free to immediately accept an offer from another team, they have given every insecure coach or even fan-appeasing, ticket-selling owner an opportunity to once again show they care little about the integrity of the league and more about winning a game.

At a time when many in the league are intimating or suspect Brown has mental health issues -- and, let's be clear, there is no documented medical evidence to support that -- any franchise that would sign him now would only be perpetrating the already-accepted notion they care less about the player's well-being and more about improving their team.

Worse, they would only be doing what every team has done every time they throw a multimillion dollar contract at Antonio Brown: enabling the very same behavior that has made him the most insubordinate player to ever soil the NFL.

It is easy to suggest this happens all the time in the league. Teams sign players who have been suspended for any number of league or legal offenses if they are good enough to improve their offense or defense, hiding under the disingenuous guise that human beings deserve a second chance.

But this is different.

What Antonio Brown did in his final act with the Steelers -- walking out of practice the week leading up to the 2018 season finale against the Bengals, not attending any team meetings, refusing to return phone calls from Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert and even owner Art Rooney II, then showing up Sunday at Heinz Field expecting to play in the game -- ranks as the most egregious act of insubordination the franchise has witnessed. It is also a textbook example of narcissism, which, in this instance, isn't even the most unflattering of terms.

But, for A.B., no worries.

After the Steelers washed their hands of his nonsense (finally), he was shipped to the Oakland Raiders, who rewarded him with a new contract for $50.1 million with $30 million guaranteed. Brown, though, lasted just six months with the Raiders and was gone before the start of the 2019 season after more bizarre behavior in which he got into an altercation with General Manager Mike Mayock on the practice field and began posting messages on social media for the Raiders to release him. Which they did, costing Brown his $30 million guarantee.

But, for A.B., no worries.

The New England Patriots quickly snatched him up and threw more money at him, signing the one-time All-Pro receiver to a one-year, $15 million contract. Like all the others, New England believed Brown would conform to the "Patriots way" and fall in line under the marching orders of their drill sergeant, Bill Belichick.

His stay with the Patriots lasted one game and 11 days. He was released by the team amid allegations of sexual assault by one of his former trainers.

But, for A.B., no worries.

Tom Brady liked the connection the duo made during Brown's 11-day stay with the Patriots -- "The Bachelorette" doesn't make connections that quick -- and convinced the Buccaneers to sign him, despite the private objections of Coach Bruce Arians. They did, signing Brown to a contract after he served a league-imposed eight-game suspension for multiple violations of the NFL's personal conduct policy.

When Brown caught a pair of touchdowns in the postseason, including one in the Super Bowl, the Bucs re-signed him to one-year deal for $6.25 million in 2021.

The Bucs reportedly wanted Brown to seek "mental help and therapy," but he was uninterested.

Now this.

Hopefully, whispers and intimations that some teams might be interested in signing Brown, despite his "Slapshot"-like striptease in New York, are only that. If it would happen, hopefully Roger Goodell would suspend him yet again, this time for conduct unbecoming to the league.

Hopefully, it never comes to that, if for no other reason than to save some franchise from the shame of stupidity.

After all, if Brown cannot coexist with three of the most player-friendly coaches in the league -- Tomlin, Arians and Jon Gruden -- why would any other coach or front-office executive think for a millisecond he will sit contently around their locker room and sing "the sun will come out tomorrow"?

Worst of all, it would only continue to enable the behavior that has turned Antonio Brown from All-Pro receiver to ignominious headache.

Print Headline: Time for teams to stop enabling WR

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