TAMPA — The Bucs’ playoff fortunes may have been different had Antonio Brown not walked off the field at MetLife Stadium during a game against the New York Jets.
That’s the belief of Mike Evans, who tried to prevent Brown from removing his shoulder pads that Jan. 2 afternoon.
Brown was released for refusing to re-enter the game. Speaking for the first time about the incident, Evans confirmed Brown was complaining about not getting the football, although both receivers were coming off injuries and on a “pitch count.”
“What I remember is we were trying to get him to come back in the game,” Evans told Yahoo! Sports. “He was saying he wanted the rock (ball), and I mean, rightfully so. We should have gotten the rock. I mean, he’s an unbelievable player. But like, yo, come in the game, AB.”
Evans went back in the game for two plays, then came back to the sideline in time to see Brown and coach Bruce Arians having words.
“AB goes off. And he’s about to take his pads off,” Evans said. “And I’m trying to grab his pads and tell him like, ‘Yo, big bro’ because me and him have a relationship. And I don’t want him to go out like this. Like obviously we need him, so I’m telling him, ‘Big bro, we need you. The season’s almost over. If you don’t want to be here the next year, you can leave, you know what I’m saying?’ ...”
Evans, who said Brown definitely would have helped their chances to repeat as Super Bowl champs, weighed in on other topics.
On Tom Brady retiring:
“He texted us right before, put us all in a group chat, the Bucs skill guys and, you know, let us know how he felt about us and things like that. So greatest player ever, hardest worker, most prepared guy at his job. At any job, I mean, he’s so prepared. He makes sure everybody else is prepared. We’re going to miss him so much. It’s going to be a huge blow. It’s going to be tough to replace a guy like that, obviously.”
On hoping receiver Chris Godwin stays in Tampa Bay:
“That’s my guy, one of my favorite teammates of all time, blue collar guy. He’s nasty. He gets down and dirty, runs after the catch. He never goes down, blocks his tail off. He’s been doing that since Day One, though, since a rookie. He came in prepared. He knew the offense better than me when he was a rookie and it was my fourth year. ...
“We’re just blessed to be here and we know that. Talk about it all the time, and we’re not going to take this opportunity for granted. We’re going to try to maximize it. I’m sure he’s going to come back from the ACL injury even stronger because he’s a dog. And you know, I have no doubt about that. So hopefully me and him will be doing it big in Tampa for a long time to come.”
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