Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown returned to action Sunday for the first time since suffering an ankle injury in Week 7 and serving a three-game suspension this month for violating the joint NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 protocols.
The wideout caught a team-high 10 passes for 101 yards as the Buccaneers routed the Panthers, 32-6, to clinch an NFC South title, but he did not seem to be interested in discussing the events that led to his prolonged absence from the team.
"Next question. Next question," Brown said when asked what it meant for Bucs head coach Bruce Arians to stand by him amid his latest transgression. "I just want to talk about this game. We don't wanna waste no time with you guys writing."
When reminded that the media has not had an opportunity to get Brown's perspective on being reinstated following his suspension, Brown didn't concede.
"I don't want to talk about that," he said. "You guys is all drama. It's all about football. We can talk about Carolina, or I don't want to talk to you guys."
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported a week ago that Brown was expected to return to the Bucs after being found by the NFL to have misrepresented his vaccination status. Arians, who previously had said there would be a zero-tolerance policy for Brown upon signing him last year, did not apologize earlier this week for amending his stance.
"Well, the history has changed since that statement," Arians said. "A lot of things went on last year that I was very proud of him. And I made a decision that was best for our football team. … I could give a s--- what (people) think. Only thing I care about is this football team and what's best for us."
A.B. was asked Sunday whether there was a point in which he wasn't sure if he'd play for Tampa Bay again.
"I'm just here to do my job," Brown said. "I can't control what people write, how people try to frame me, people try to bring me down. And life is about obstacles and persevering and doing what's right, so you get the right outcomes. I'm standing before you guys grateful, humble, thankful and excited to be a part of a big win with my teammates. Its not about what I did. It's about what all the guys in there did, collectively, together. And that's it."
The Buccaneers currently sit just one game back from the top spot in the conference with two games remaining. Brown figures to play a major role in how far the reigning champions go in 2021, what with leading receiver Chris Godwin (ACL/MCL) lost for the season and Mike Evans currently out with a hamstring injury. No other Buc targeted in Week 16 caught more than three passes.
When Brown was asked about what he's been dealing with physically, his answer reverted to his previous ones.
"It's a lot of drama," Brown said. "It's a lot of drama you guys create, a lot of drama that people create that want stuff from me. But that's just a part of life, a part of being in the position. I can't control what people want from me, I can't control what people write about me, I can't control what people say about me. All I could do is get up every day and be the best person I can be, and when I get a chance to do my job, do my job the best way I could do it, and that's what we had today."