TAMPA ― The Bucs released receiver Antonio Brown before he had a chance to meet with the team-appointed doctor in New York on Thursday, his attorney said.
Brown has said he had an MRI exam performed and read by two orthopedic surgeons last week, including Dr. Martin O’Malley at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Brown said it showed he had bone fragments and ligament damage to his left ankle.
But the Bucs scheduled an appointment “outside the normal business hours” with another doctor at HSS on Thursday morning, attorney Sean Burstyn said Saturday night in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times.
Brown’s representatives said they spoke to the orthopedic specialist appointed by the Bucs in New York who agreed to see the images of Brown’s ankle first. But the Bucs ‘’engineered a bogus scheme’' as a way to release Brown, Burstyn said.
The Bucs said in a statement announcing Brown’s release Thursday that “we have attempted, multiple times throughout this week, to schedule an evaluation by an outside orthopedic specialist, yet Antonio has not complied. Maintaining the health and wellness of our players is of the utmost importance to our organization.”
But Burstyn insisted the early morning appointment was made as a “pretextual’' reason to release Brown. According to Burstyn, Brown and his representatives learned of his release on Twitter.
“We were in the midst of scheduling an appointment with the Bucs’ chosen doctor at HSS when we learned, over Twitter, that the Bucs terminated Antonio on Thursday,’' Burstyn said. “On Wednesday night, the Bucs concocted a bogus scheme to engineer a way to cut Antonio. They arbitrarily picked an appointment time outside of normal business hours early Thursday morning. We immediately spoke to the doctor and asked if he had reviewed recent MRIs and whether we could reschedule to a normal, reasonable hour. When the doctor said he had not yet seen the images and was graciously willing to see us at a normal time, we proceeded to rescheduling. Again, the Bucs fired Antonio for not showing up to a doctor’s appointment that was being rescheduled to later that same day. (And, yes, we have the texts proving exactly that.)
“The Bucs’ chosen time was pure gamesmanship. It was a pretextual termination to give them a reason to cut AB. They did this because they know that (coach) Bruce Arians’ on-the-field termination of AB was unlawful. So they tried covering it up using their latest dirty trick: ‘Surprise attack’ medical care that they never intended for AB to receive.’’
Brown has maintained he did not re-enter last Sunday’s game against the Jets in the second half because his injured left ankle was bothering him.
He missed two days of practice leading up to the game but was cleared to play and responded with three catches for 26 yards in the first half.
Arians said Brown was irritated and loudly complained about his lack of targets in the locker room at halftime. Arians said when Brown was told to go into the game, he refused.
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That’s when Arians said he told Brown, ”You’re done. Get the eff out of here.’'
Brown took off his jersey and shoulder pads, ran through the end zone at MetLife Stadium and left before the game ended.
Brown, 33, said on the Full Send Podcast on Friday that he planned to continue his career after undergoing surgery to clean up his ankle.
“Of course I’m planning on playing football next season,’' he said. “You see what I’ve been able to do on a hurt ankle? It’s been four years since I’ve been able to be in this situation where I could be in good health and a good team that really has my back. These guys have been treating me to the opposite of who I am, and I’ve been able to accept that role for a couple years out of respect.
“But I’m looking forward to getting my ankle cleaned up, I’m looking forward to reigniting my career.’'