TAMPA, Fla. — One year ago, without a team and preparing to serve an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown didn’t know where his NFL journey would lead or if he would even get the chance to continue playing.
Fast-forward to training camp in 2021 — having focused on his personal life and having not only found his role in a Super Bowl offense, but thriving in it — Brown said the biggest thing he’s taken from this past year has been gratitude.
“Life last year was uncertain. A lot of uncertainty,” Brown said Monday. “Would I even get the chance to play football, being suspended? I always remember at that point last year where I was at to make sure I appreciate [this]. Having the right respect and being grateful that I’m at this point right here. I’ve got all my goals in front of me and an opportunity to do what I love. There’s a lot I can appreciate now.”
“I’ve just learned to appreciate the position I’m in. Keep the right perspective. And stay grateful. A.P.G. Appreciation — appreciate the opportunity I get to do what I love. Keeping the right perspective. Knowing it’s bigger than me. … And just being grateful. Grateful to do what I love…”
This offseason, Brown reached a settlement with his former trainer Britney Taylor, who had accused Brown of sexually assaulting her in a civil suit filed in 2019. Settlement terms were not disclosed, but Taylor’s attorney said in a statement to ESPN that the two both “felt it was time to move on.”
Brown’s felony probation stemming from an incident with a delivery truck driver was also terminated a year early due to good conduct, although he still faces litigation from the driver.
“I’m just excited to be done with this stuff from the past,” Brown said of the litigation. “It’s a new chapter for me. I’m excited to write it. I’m excited to be here.”
Part of that new chapter included undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in May after suffering an injury during the NFC divisional playoff game against the New Orleans Saints, which forced him to miss the NFC Championship Game. Brown came back for the Super Bowl, finishing with five catches in that game, including a 1-yard touchdown in the first half.
“This is the healthiest he’s been in a few years,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said. “It’s been bothering him for a couple of years. Now it’s all clean, so it’s good.”
“He probably needed that procedure, but he wouldn’t do it. It’s amazing, I was talking to Emmanuel Sanders last night and that was his first surgery — ever. At his age  — it’s just amazing. It’s remarkable how he takes care of himself. He’s playing at a speed that we saw four or five years ago.”
Quarterback Tom Brady continues to have a strong influence on Brown, who has likened Brady to a brother. After a couple hiccups with their communication early on in camp, the two have shown terrific chemistry, and Brown has looked nearly unbeatable throughout practices.
With a full year in Arians’ offense with Brady, Brown could very well return to the All-Pro form he showed when he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Still, it may be a tall ask to replicate his stats when he led the NFL in receiving yards in 2014 and 2017, and receptions in 2014 and 2015, because the Bucs have so many weapons with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Scotty Miller, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, who was removed from the PUP list on Monday.
Of the opportunity to spend another year with Brady, Brown said, “It means everything to me.”