Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said on Sunday that he believes troubled wide receiver Antonio Brown, who is currently serving an eight-game suspension due to multiple violations of the NFL's personal conduct policy, has "matured."
Arians also said the decision to bring in Brown didn't come at the urging of quarterback Tom Brady, but was one made between him and general manager Jason Licht.
Arians had said in March that Brown "was not a fit" for the Bucs. But that was prior to injuries suffered by their receiving corps.
"I think he's matured, and I believe in second chances," Arians said Sunday when asked what made him change his mind. "Everybody wants to say that Tom picked him. Tom didn't have anything to do with it. This was something Jason and I had been talking [about] for a couple weeks, ever since the injuries to our other guys. When the time was right, would we see if we could pull the trigger and fit him in to what we want to get done? And we'll see. If Antonio does what I think he's gonna do, I think he's gonna be fine."
Brown has been accused by two women in the past year of sexual misconduct, including one who said Brown sent her threatening text messages.
In a civil lawsuit filed in September 2019, Brown's former trainer said Brown sexually assaulted her on three separate occasions in 2017 and 2018. A female artist then told Sports Illustrated that when she was painting a portrait in Brown's Pennsylvania home in 2017, she turned around to find Brown "naked, holding a small towel in his hands over his genitals," which abruptly ended the session.
The NFL also investigated Brown for an alleged domestic dispute in January 2019 in which the Hollywood (Florida) Police Department was dispatched but did not make an arrest. Then in April 2020, Brown was charged with attacking a delivery truck driver after the driver attempted to deliver items to Brown's home in January. Brown pleaded no contest to a felony burglary with battery charge and two lesser misdemeanor charges in the incident.
Second chances have been a core principle of Arians' coaching. But so has advocacy for women. Arians was honored with the Champion for Equality Award presented by the Women's Sports Foundation two weeks ago for his work in advancing women in the NFL after he hired two female coaches in Tampa Bay and brought in a female intern with the Arizona Cardinals. But Arians also maintained a close relationship with Ben Roethlisberger after he was twice accused of sexual assault, serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
Asked what he would say to female fans about the Bucs' bringing in Brown, Arians said, "I think you just let the court system do its job. Allegations -- I've been around a lot of players that have had allegations that weren't true, some were -- so let the court system handle it. If it's found out to be true, he won't be with us."
Pittsburgh-area law enforcement looked into one of Brown's trainer's allegations that happened in their jurisdiction, but authorities did not prosecute Brown due to an expired statute of limitations. Brown is countersuing her for defamation and interference with his NFL contracts and endorsements.
One of Brown's biggest supporters has been Brady, who is known for welcoming players who have struggled with other organizations and even the law. He opened his home to Brown when the receiver first signed with the Patriots, but on Sunday, he declined to discuss Brown's current mental state and any personal conversations they've had, speaking about only his football abilities.
"He's a tremendous football player," Brady said. "I played with him for a brief period of time. Looking forward to working with him again, to see what role he can come in [and play]. He's a very hardworking guy. ... We're all gonna go out there on the practice field and do the best we can do. And we're gonna see how it all fits together. There's a lot of hard work ahead. None of it just magically happens. I think we realized that early in the season, we put a lot of new people together, and we've gotta figure a lot of things out in a short period of time. We're fighting against continuity of a lot of other teams, a lot of other coaches. Bruce has had tremendous patience with me, watching me grow in the offense. I totally appreciate that and respect that and feel like I'm getting to a more comfortable place."
New teammate Scotty Miller has never met Brown, who is expected to officially sign with the Bucs on Monday, according to reporting by ESPN's Adam Schefter. But Miller said he believes in giving people a blank slate and will do so with Brown.
"I think just really giving him a blank canvas," Miller said. "He's been suspended. He's done all the things the league's had him do. So just come in and treat him like anybody else who comes in. Give him a chance, just like anybody. Get to know him. I don't know too much about his past -- I didn't research him or anything like that. ... But just excited to meet him. I think we all are. One thing I have heard about him is he's one of the hardest working guys around. So I think we're just excited to have him. And I think he's gonna do a good job."
Ultimately, the Bucs think that with so many injuries to their receiving corps already and a late bye week, they can't afford to be shorthanded the way they were two weeks ago at the Chicago Bears.
"It's an insurance policy," Arians said. "When we don't have Mike [Evans], and we don't have Chris [Godwin -- why not have another Pro Bowl player, caliber player, that's available that fits our cap, and fits everything else, so why not? We have good players. You can't have enough of 'em. In Chicago, we got one of our top guys [Evans] out there on one leg. Why not have another one?"