Does Antonio Brown Still Have a Place in the NFL?

Antonio Brown has been in the national spotlight ever since he entered the National Football League (NFL) in 2010, making highlight-worthy catches and unbelievable plays week in and week out.

Antonio Brown has been in the national spotlight ever since he entered the National Football League (NFL) in 2010, making highlight-worthy catches and unbelievable plays week in and week out. This past summer, however, Antonio Brown has been at the forefront of the sports world for his problematic off-field behavior. Brown requested a trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers and ended up at the Oakland Raiders. What began as an incredible opportunity for both parties took a turn for the worse, as Brown’s training camp was filled with fiascos involving a frostbite injury and protest over his preferred helmet being banned in which he threatened to retire if he did not get his way. Amid the turmoil with the Raiders’ front office, Brown posted a photograph on Instagram of the fines that the Raiders had given him due to missing mandatory team events.

After losing the guaranteed money in his deal because of his “conduct detrimental to the team,” Brown then asked the Raiders to release him, which they did, allowing the New England Patriots to sign him. Just as Brown’s prospects looked bright with the NFL’s premier organization, Britney Taylor, Brown's former trainer, filed a civil suit accusing Brown of three incidents of sexual assault or rape in 2017 and 2018. After images surfaced of Brown’s messages he sent to the accuser, he was released from the Patriots after only one and a half weeks. Brown tweeted that he “will not be playing in the NFL anymore” and now has re-enrolled at Central Michigan University. Despite his evident talent and there being speculation of a potential return, Antonio Brown’s erratic behavior off the gridiron, which caused his recent releases from the Raiders and Patriots, will continue to deter potential suitors, thus ending what was once an illustrious career.

Simply put, no NFL franchise can reasonably trust Antonio Brown after his behavior over the summer and during training camp. After the Raiders fined Brown multiple times for absences and “conduct detrimental to the team,” ESPN reported that Brown made “an emotional apology” to the team, only to post a Youtube video containing a personal phone call with Jon Gruden later the same day. If a franchise cannot trust its star player to withhold the contents of a private conversation, then he simply cannot be worth the investment that a franchise makes in him if they were to sign him. If Brown showed no remorse after multiple fines, there is nothing to suggest that he can contribute meaningfully to the team off the field in the future. In addition, the sexual assault allegations which recently surfaced are another massive red-flag when considering if Brown should be signed to a team. Allegations from Brown’s former trainer, combined with the threatening texts he sent her in response, would likely suspend him if he were to be picked up. In addition, teams in today’s league are increasingly unlikely to pick up morally suspect players due to increased scrutiny from the fans and the league office.

Although Brown’s off-field behavior is certainly undesirable, one could argue that his immense talent outweighs the risks associated with him. After being drafted in the sixth round, Brown quickly rose to the spotlight as he broke out with over 1100 receiving yards in just his second year. Brown became the number one option receiving option for Pittsburgh. Until this summer, Brown never looked back as he surpassed over 1000 receiving yards every year while accumulating 75 career touchdowns (TDs). In 2014 he had a career year and gained over 1700 yards. Even after the emergence of rising-star Juju Smith-Schuster, Brown still caught a career-high 15 TDs last year. With that being said, his dangerous speed, combined with the footwork that earned him the nickname “Tony Toe-Tap,” and his All-Pro production could merit him consideration from numerous NFL teams in need of an offensive spark.

Considering that even the Patriots, a team well-known for rehabilitating troubled players’ careers, released Brown, his future in the NFL must truly be dire. The Patriots have provided players such as Randy Moss, Josh Gordon, Wes Welker, and Danny Woodhead a second life in the league. With the Patriots, these athletes learned to manage their egos and make the most of their respective talents. If the Patriots considered Brown too problematic to work with, teams with a lesser track record of turning around players will surely deem Brown untouchable. Brown himself has stated that he does not plan on playing in the NFL again and has removed himself from consideration by re-enrolling at Central Michigan, at least for the time being. Following all of the havoc Brown wreaked on two of the NFL’s proudest franchises during the beginning of the NFL’s 100th season, his career is now effectively over, as all of the red-flags surrounding him and his character will continue to outweigh his talent in every NFL team’s mind.

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