Tampa Bay Buccaneers add Antonio Brown to maximize Tom Brady’s window


TAMPA, Fla .– Almost seven months to the day after Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said “that won’t happen” with Antonio Brown, the Bucs have reached a deal with the controversial wide receiver , but very talented, who last played for Arians in 2011 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It was not a coaching speech, Arians is a direct shooter. He called Brown “too much of a diva” and said he was not fit for the Bucs’ locker room, even with quarterback Tom Brady campaigning for him behind closed doors. But that was before injuries started to mount in the Bucs receiving body.

Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans has been hampered by an ankle injury since Week 4 and has barely been able to train. Their other Pro Bowl receiver, Chris Godwin, missed three games with a concussion and hamstring strain. Their quick, deep threat Scotty Miller was hampered by a hip / groin injury. And tight winger OJ Howard – who had become a big part of the screen game – went to the reserve injured from a broken Achilles.

The result? Brady’s best receiver against the Chicago Bears was rookie Tyler Johnson, to whom he had never completed an assist until Week 5. What if the Bucs not only want to make the playoffs, but also have a one-man run? Super Bowl with Brady, they realize their window is tight and they need reinforcements at a position that has been hit hard by injuries.

It’s the same reason they signed AQ Shipley as a backup center, so if anything happened to Ryan Jensen, Brady could take photos of an experienced center. It’s the same reason they hired running backs Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy – to make sure Brady had experimented with running backs to team up with Ronald Jones and Ke’Shawn Vaughn – who could help in the passing game.

So how are the Arians going to handle Brown, with whom he traded beards on the stock exchange, had a tryout with the New Orleans Saints that included an entourage of the film crew who infuriated the staff members coach of the Saints, once cursed former Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and arrived at the Oakland Raiders camp in a hot air balloon?

The feeling inside the organization is that the Arians personality is strong enough to handle it. Arians has never had a problem giving anyone peace of mind – as evidenced by his swearing tirades in practice – and he’s coached Brown with the Steelers. Brown also has ties to several Arians training staff: offensive assistant Antwaan Randle-El was his teammate in 2010; Harold Goodwin was an offensive assistant with the Steelers for two years when Brown was there; offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich played with Brown for three seasons in Pittsburgh as a backup quarterback; Away linebacker coach Larry Foote was Brown’s teammate in Pittsburgh for four seasons. Newly acquired defensive tackle Steve McLendon played with Brown in Pittsburgh for six seasons.

But the person who can have the biggest impact of all, and who can keep Brown in check, is Brady, with whom Brown has developed an immediate connection in New England. Brady invited Brown to stay home when he signed with the Patriots. In their one and only game with the Patriots, Brown had four catches for 56 yards and one touchdown in a 43-0 win over the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots released Brown less than two weeks after signing him.

Brady has managed to keep his struggling teammates in check when others have failed. Examples include LeGarrette Blount, Martellus Bennett, Corey Dillon, Randy Moss and Aqib Talib. But Brown’s off-court issues are serious – two cases where he has been charged with sexual misconduct and one charge of felony and burglary. He must be held in check at all times.

This decision signifies how much influence Brady has on this organization. Brown’s personality contrasts with Evans, Godwin, Miller, Johnson, Justin Watson, Jaydon Mickens and Cyril Grayson – players who don’t complain when the ball isn’t thrown and lead relatively calm lives off the pitch.

Brown won’t be eligible to play until Week 9, but it’s an important rematch against the Saints, for whom the Bucs have a half-game lead in NFC South but lost in Week 1.


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