Brown quickly became one of the most controversial figures in football after this offseason. What happened?

If you’ve watched football throughout this decade, you know the name Antonio Brown. 

A seven-time Pro Bowler, Brown has led the league in receiving yards and receptions twice throughout his career, paced all receivers in touchdown catches just last season and has been named to four First-Team All-Pro squads. Teammates and coaches alike have complimented him not only on his incredible abilities as a receiver but also on his strong work ethic.

Recently, however, the narrative has switched from a top football player to a prima donna. Of course, being traded or released by two teams in the span of six months doesn’t help his case. Then add on issues with the league’s mandatory helmet regulations, altercations with team executives and social media posts that glorify his frustrations and excitements, and you have a player that seems morally incompetent. Yet, to understand the myth behind Brown, you must start from the beginning.

After growing up in a football family with his father, Eddie Brown, being one of the best Arena Football League competitors of all time, AB was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. You could argue this is where his egotistical character began to take fruition. Brown admitted that he was motivated by the fact that every team in football seemed oblivious to his talents heading into the NFL, and he wanted to prove all who passed on him wrong.

In Pittsburgh, Brown was mentored by some incredibly skilled receivers. At the time the franchise-leader in receptions, Hines Ward, was the team’s staple receiver, accompanied by Mike Wallace, Antwaan Randle El and others. Brown didn’t become the cornerstone of that offense until later in his career, yet his troublesome personality made it seem he was the number one guy since the beginning.

Former NFL safety, Ryan Clark, who was a  teammate of Brown’s from 2010-13, made it public that Brown was always a hard guy for coaches to work with, particularly defensive coaches because  Brown was unwilling to take tackles, due to his self given worth as a player. 

There were also brief discussions of a tainted relationship between Brown and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Nevertheless, Brown quickly became a fan favorite in the Steel City, leading his team in receptions for five straight seasons and solidifying himself as a top receiver in football.

In the final week of the 2018 season, one that was already lost for his Steelers team, Brown was obsolete in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was reported later that an altercation between he and Roethlisberger led to Brown missing practice, which forced head coach Mike Tomlin, to bench his star wideout. Brown responded by not attending the game at all and requesting a trade from Pittsburgh, the organization he developed in.

After months of deliberation, Brown was eventually traded to the Oakland Raiders for a third and fifth-round pick in the 2019 Draft. It seemed apparent from the beginning, Brown wanted a fresh start with a new team. Head coach John Gruden was excited to have him, and quarterback Derek Carr made it clear that he wanted to build a strong relationship with the superstar from the get-go. The organization was electric, but things quickly went south.

Brown missed 10 of the team’s 11 training camp sessions thanks to a self-inflicted injury to both his feet after not wearing proper footwear in a cryotherapy chamber. 

Just weeks later followed the helmet drama. All players were forced to wear helmets meeting league requirements. Brown’s old model helmet (one he wore throughout his entire tenure with the Steelers) failed to do that, and he was unwilling to meet league demands. He went as far as to say he would never play the game of football again if he couldn’t wear his old helmet.

After multiple grievances filed by Brown were declined by the league, on Sept. 4, Brown decided he would play with the newly designed Xenith Shadow helmet. However, on that same day, Raiders general manager, Mike Maycock, fined Brown $54,000, due to his unexcused absences from offseason programs. This led to an intense altercation between the two men, in which Brown, who was held back by multiple teammates, threatened to hit Maycock.

Brown apologized to the team, but the apology didn’t ease anything. Brown requested to be released, which the Raiders obliged to on Sept. 7. His release left his 2019 salary of $14.5 million completely off the table. Just hours later the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots signed Brown to a one-year deal worth $10.5 million, with a second-year option being added on Sept. 9 that could increase that number to $20 million by 2020.

As of right now, the Patriots will begin this upcoming 2019 season as the undisputed favorites to win the Super Bowl again,  after they crushed the Steelers 33-3 on Sunday night. Brown didn’t even play a snap. 

However, Brown was recently reported to have been accused of sexually assaulting his former trainer Britney Taylor on three separate occasions. Predictably, Brown’s lawyer, Darren Heitner, stated that the receiver will aggressively fight these claims. Nevertheless, an investigation such as this could keep him off the field for an even longer amount of time, possibly indefinitely.

This offseason showed the power NFL players are beginning to gain in terms of building their desired futures. Brown clearly is the best representation of this. He may not be easy to work with. He may have an implausible temperament. And yes, his head may be bigger than it should be. But he’s pretty good at catching a football, and he deserves to be in an environment in which he can best showcase his skills. Whether or not he did this with a sense of dignity is certainly debatable.