It’s not very often that a seemingly minor injury derails a player’s entire season. But for wide receiver Antonio Brown, that’s exactly what seems to be happening. After finishing a 9-catch, 93-yard performance against the Eagles on a sore ankle, Brown was held out of practice the following week. Originally diagnosed with a sprained ankle, Brown has now missed six weeks and five games. And it doesn’t sound like the All-Pro receiver is coming back anytime soon.
“I doubt it,” Arians said when asked if Brown would return to practice this week. “I doubt it.”
Arians was then asked if Brown had experienced a setback in his recovery from the Week 6 injury.
“It was more a different injury than originally thought,” Arians said. “A sprain, but there’s some issues in the heel. That’s what he’s having problems with.”
Bucs WR Antonio Brown – Photo by: USA Today
During previous interviews, Arians has mentioned that bone spurs are an issue in Brown’s recovery as well. In hindsight, Arians admitted if the Bucs had known the extent of the injury, Brown might have gone to injured reserve after Week 6. Through his first five games, Brown caught 29 passes for 418 yards and four touchdowns. He was on pace for one of his best ever seasons, despite playing as the team’s third receiver.
At this point, it’s fair to wonder when Brown will be back. Arians typically begins to hint at optimism when a player is close, but he’s quickly ruled out the receiver the past few weeks. It’s possible Brown returns before the end of the regular season with six games left. But I think Tampa Bay wants to be sure he’s healthy for the playoffs.
In Brown’s place, Tyler Johnson has struggled to produce. After a 5-catch, 65-yard performance against the Saints, Johnson looked ready to take a step. But he’s been invisible the past three games, catching five passes for 34 yards. 10 games into Johnson’s second season, and the Minnesota product has yet to score a touchdown this year. The Bucs did get Scotty Miller back from injured reserve last week. His presence should lighten the load on Johnson.
The Bucs return to action against the Falcons on Sunday at 1pm.