TAMPA — Bucs wide receiver Antonio Brown, whose resurgent recent stretch was halted by a knee injury sustained last week in New Orleans, won’t play in Sunday’s NFC title game, coach Bruce Arians said.
Brown hasn’t practiced this week and wasn’t seen during the limited practice window open to reporters Friday at AdventHealth Training Center.
“To put him on the plane and fly up there and have (the knee) swell more just doesn’t make any sense,” Arians said. “He wasn’t as close as we had hoped, so we’ll get him ready for the next one.”
Signed by the Bucs on Oct. 27 while still on the NFL’s reserve/suspended list, Brown exploded down the stretch upon getting his bearings in Arians’ offense. He didn’t have a touchdown catch his first five games, but totaled five over the next five, highlighted by a monstrous effort (11 receptions, 138 yards, two TDs) in the regular season finale against the Falcons.
“It obviously sucks for Antonio,” quarterback Tom Brady said Friday. “We all wish he could be out there with us, and other guys are going to have to step up and do the job. I’ve got a lot of confidence in the guys that haven’t been out there as much when (Brown’s) been in there.”
That confidence manifested itself Sunday during a fourth-quarter field-goal drive that put the Bucs ahead for good in their 30-20 division playoff win against the Saints.
Rookie Tyler Johnson (12 regular season catches) made an outstretched grab on third and 11 for a 15-yard gain. Second-year teammate Scotty Miller, whose playing time dissipated significantly upon Brown’s arrival (eight catches in last eight regular season games), had a 29-yard reception of a deep Tom Brady throw three plays later.
“I think you just looked to last week when Scotty and Tyler got in there and made those huge plays in the fourth quarter, the amount of trust that the coaches and Tom have in those guys, just because they’ve earned it,” Arians said.
“Yeah, Antonio will be missed, but we’ve got capable people stepping in.”
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