Bruce Arians is playing Antonio Brown when he returns from suspension this week, and he doesn’t care what anyone on the outside thinks. The tune has changed for Arians and the Bucs on Brown. Not that he’ll face further discipline because of his suspension, but that he’s playing because the team needs it.
Questions have risen about with the Bucs’ zero tolerance policy regarding Brown, only for him to get suspended this season. Brown was disciplined by the NFL for providing a fake vaccination card to the league. Despite the Bucs strict stance toward Brown, the team has announced he’ll play this week. This comes despite Arians making it clear Brown would be gone if he got in any trouble last year.
“The history has changed since that statement,” Arians said. “A lot of things went on last year that I was proud of him. I made a decision that was best for our football team. I could give a shit what [critics] think. The only thing I care about is this football team and what’s best for us.”
It’s more critical for Brown to be in the lineup for the Bucs now more than ever. Mike Evans could miss time with a hamstring injury, and Chris Godwin is out for the season with a torn ACL. That leaves the Bucs with mostly young and inexperienced receivers that failed to win their matchups on Sunday night against the Saints.
How much could Brown play on Sunday against the Panthers? It’s a reasonable question considering Brown hasn’t played since Week 6 due to an ankle injury. He’s been great when available, recording 29 receptions for 414 yards and four touchdowns in five games. But it’s been over two months since the controversial wide receiver last suited up.
“We’ll wait and see,” Arians said. “Wednesday and Thursday’s practice we’ll see how much he can do. Hopefully we can get 30, 35 plays out of him.”