By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The laundry list of bad decisions and poor behavior for Antonio Brown in 2019 is long. Very long.
For those decisions, Brown paid a hefty price, missing all but one game last year and missing half of this season due to a suspension. Now, the receiver is getting a second chance, thanks to old friend Tom Brady.
“Tom is my boy,” Brown said Wednesday during his introductory video press conference in Tampa. “One of the greatest leaders to be around. He’s encouraging, always inspiring. He brings out the best out of people around him. He wants the best for everyone around him. I mean, he’s the greatest quarterback of all time. Nothing that I’ve done in the past matters. He’s always getting better, day in and day out. And I just learn a lot from him — how he trains, how he takes care of himself professionally. His discipline. His work ethic. His approach. He’s been a great guy in my corner, and one of my close friends.”
Considering Brady has offered his home to Brown for the second time in as many years, the 32-year-old was asked why the quarterback has developed such a fondness for him.
“I think there is a lot of similarities in our work ethic,” said Brown, who was sporting a TB12 hat for the occasion. “Being guys who are supposedly supposed to be underachievers, for guys who were never supposed to make it. Sixth-round late boomers, guys who developed chips. And just wanting to be the best, just yearning for being the best. Always growing, getting better. Obviously he’s the greatest quarterback in the world. So I’m just grateful to be here, to be his teammate, to be in the huddle with him and to be a part of the process here with Tampa Bay. So, super grateful. You know, TB12’s my boy, and I’m grateful for that.”
Obviously, an addition like Brown’s comes with a certain degree of scrutiny and skepticism, especially when head coach Bruce Arians stated definitively during the summer that Brown wouldn’t be a fit. And considering that the charges against Brown went from “being a headache for the Steelers and Raiders” to “sexual assault allegations,” the criticism of the Bucs for making the move is of course quite valid.
Brown was asked directly what he would say to those who believe he is unworthy of getting this opportunity as an NFL player.
“Well, you know, hopefully I could change their perspective,” Brown said. “Being here around great people, great organization. You know, hopefully I can win them over in my actions and how I move forward and how I handle my business.”
Reports in recent week noted that Brady connected Brown with motivational speaker Tony Robbins. While that connection led immediately to sarcastic derision on social media, Brown made it clear that his conversations with Robbins have been productive and helpful.
“Yeah, definitely, Tom hooked me up with him a couple months ago. He’s been a great asset for me,” Brown said of Robbins. “We’re working on myself within, unlocking some positive stuff in my spirit, and just being a better person. It’s a lot of time sitting with him, developing some positive things within, changing my outlook on a couple of things, battling and getting away from anger, just being able to stay positive and see the positive things, not letting emotion or frustration ruin my outlook on what’s in front of me. So I really thank Tony Robbins and TB12 for hooking me up with great people that can align me with my purpose and that helped me to see the light, regardless of my future.”
Brown was asked if he’s now a different person.
“I just feel like I’m a better person. I wouldn’t say I’m a different person, but I’m a better person,” he said. “I learned a lot about myself, working on myself for a year and a half. I think I’m a better person.”
Certainly, Brown joins the Bucs under very different circumstances than when he joined the Raiders last spring and the Patriots last fall. In Oakland, Brown had forced his way off the Steelers, after failing to show up to work during the week of a must-win Week 17 game. Once in Oakland, he caused major issues with some self-inflicted foot burns and with adapting to a new helmet style before reportedly getting into a confrontation with GM Mike Mayock. He was eventually cut, and the Patriots acted fast to sign him. But shortly after he joined New England, allegations of rape and sexual assault surfaced, and he was released less than two weeks after signing.
After his release from New England, he went on some social media rants against the NFL and Robert Kraft, before getting into a confrontation with a delivery truck driver that led to his arrest. The NFL didn’t formally suspend him until July 2020, deciding that eight games in 2020 would be the proper remaining punishment.
As a result of that yeah of chaos, Brown has not played in an NFL game since Sept. 15 of last year. He’ll suit up on Sunday night vs. the Saints.
Whether or not he stays on track and contributes for Brady’s Buccaneers for the remainder of the year is anyone’s guess. But for the time being, he’s at least learned to say all of the right things.
“Well I took a lot of time off from the game to reevaluate myself, to look within, to get a better perspective of myself. Working on myself,” Brown said. “Being in this position, I followed the mission to get back on track. That’s what I’m here to do.”
He added: “Well I’ve just been spending a lot of time with family, working on myself within, and just staying resilient, keeping the mind on the mission that’s being a football player. And doing all the things that come with that, even when times get hard, keeping myself in shape, keeping myself motivated from within, not listening to the naysayers or not giving doubt or worries about will I be able to return. I know I had good trainers, good people around me in my corner that kept me encouraged. They kept me motivated. And I just believed. I knew one day I’d get a chance to be back in this position. And I just tried to check every box to make sure when I was able to get back, that I was ready to go.”