Antonio Brown

Getty Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown.

One of the more bizarre ends to a career in NFL history occurred on Jan. 2, 2022, when Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown removed his helmet and shoulder pads during the third quarter of a road game against the New York Jets and walked off the field at MetLife Stadium, shirtless, waving to the crowd.

Brown was released by the Buccaneers a few days later and never played football again.

On a recent episode of The Pivot podcast with former NFL players Ryan Clark, Fred Taylor and Channing Crowder, Brown tried to explain what happened that day.

After Brown initially said what happened was “out of his control,” Clark, who played with Brown on the Pittsburgh Steelers, challenged him to give more of an answer.

Brown, who had an estimated $80.7 million in career earnings, filed for bankruptcy in May 2024, listing $3 million in debts and just $50,000 in assets.

“I did what was best for me,” Brown said about walking off the field in his last game. “That’s what my therapist tells me — if I have a trauma or trigger, I’m going to walk away. I didn’t do nothing wrong, I took off my equipment, and took off my shirt, and waived to the people that love me, and walked away. That’s what my therapist advised me to do.”

Brown played 12 seasons in the NFL and is still in the Top 30 in NFL history for career receiving yards (12,291), receiving touchdowns (83) and receptions (928).

Brown’s Meteoric Rise and Spectacular Fall

Brown was a two-time All-American at Central Michigan before he was selected by the Steelers in the sixth round (No .195 overall) of the 2010 NFL draft.

In Pittsburgh, Brown was the dominant receiver of the 2010s, making the NFL All-Pro Team five consecutive seasons and being selected to the Pro Bowl six consecutive seasons and seven times overall.

Brown had six consecutive seasons of over 1,000 receiving yards from 2013 to 2018 — a stretch in which he led the NFL in receiving yards twice, receptions twice, and receiving touchdowns with 15 in 2018.

He forced a trade to the Oakland Raiders in March 2019 despite having two years left on his contract with the Steelers and signed a 3-year, $50.25 million contract extension with the Raiders but never played a game there and was released before the 2019 season.

He signed a 1-year, $15 million contact with the New England Patriots in 2019 but was released by the team after one game amid allegation of sexual misconduct.

Brown Bottoms Out With Buccaneers

Tampa Bay signed Brown to a 1-year, $1.6 million contract before the 2020 season and after he was suspended 8 games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

Brown returned to the team for the final 8 regular-season games and 3 postseason games, including scoring a touchdown in a 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

Brown was suspended for 3 games in 2021 for lying about his vaccination status and returned only to have his epic meltdown against the Jets. Since leaving football, Brown has been arrested twice for failing to make child support payments in Florida. He has also made headlines with an ongoing series of bizarre and sometimes disturbing incidents — most of which he has blamed on CTE he suffered while playing in the NFL.

“Other people may think that I may have not done things the way they should have been done,” Brown told Clark. “But that’s why they’re not me. It’s okay to not understand AB.”

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