Less than two months after saying that he had retired, Antonio Brown announced on Friday that he plans to resume his NFL career. The four-time All-Pro wideout said that he plans to play for the Ravens, the team that formally employed his younger cousin, Marquise Brown.
“Excited to return to the NFL this year,” Brown wrote on Twitter while posting a photo of himself in a Ravens uniform.
Of course, Brown is not currently on the Ravens roster, and his tweet raises questions, mainly about whether he or the team believe this could actually be possible.
This isn’t the first time that Brown has linked himself to the Ravens. Lamar Jackson, who on Thursday inked a five-year deal with Baltimore that made him the league’s highest-paid player, lobbied for the Ravens to sign Brown after the two worked out together during the 2020 offseason. Brown ultimately signed and won a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers that season.
“He’s a cool, down-to-earth guy and he’s passionate about the sport of football,” Jackson said of Brown at the time, via The Baltimore Sun. “I feel like the locker room here is different from any other locker room. It’s like a brotherhood going on. It’s none of that outside noise; it’s strictly inside. We worry about each other; we worry about what we have going on. We want to win, and I can just tell in him that he wants to win. He wants to play ball.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn’t necessarily rule out signing Brown then, but would he and the Ravens consider signing him now? Brown will be 35 before the start of the 2023 season. He hasn’t played in the NFL since he jogged off the field during a late-season game in the 2021 season as a member of the Buccaneers. Tampa promptly released him after that game, and no team has considered signing Brown since.
Brown’s ugly divorce from Tampa is likely among the reasons teams have stayed away from him. He has had countless off-field issues that recently included an arrest warrant over unpaid child support. Brown was released from New England after just one game in 2019 after the NFL began investigating him for multiple accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior, including rape. In October of 2022, Brown was ordered to pay a delivery driver $1.2 million after he was allegedly attacked by Brown.
Brown’s issues — both on and off the field — in recent years often overshadows how good of a player he was in his prime. From 2011-18, Brown was selected to seven Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro each year from 2014-17. During that span, Brown, then a receiver for the Steelers, led the NFL in receptions and receiving yards on multiple occasions.
A former sixth-round pick, Brown was in the running for league MVP in 2017 before suffering an injury in Week 15. Despite the injury (which sidelined him for the final 2.5 games of the season), Brown still led the NFL that season with 1,533 receiving yards. Despite being nowhere near 100%, Brown returned for playoffs and caught seven passes for 132 yards and two scores in Pittsburgh’s divisional round loss to Jacksonville.
Brown’s last Pro Bowl season was back in 2018, when he led the NFL with 15 touchdown receptions despite being benched for the final game of the season. He is second in Steelers history in career catches, yards, and receiving touchdowns.
“What I’ll say about AB is this, we had nine great years,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said on “The Pivot” podcast last summer. “I appreciate that dude in ways I can’t explain to y’all. … I don’t think enough gets said about the will of that dude, about the work ethic of that dude, about the fearlessness in which he played the game. … I’ve never seen him blink on the football field. I’ve never seen him shy away from anything that was uncomfortable on the football field. I’ve only seen him run into burning buildings, as they say, on the football field. We talk about all this other stuff, but we don’t talk about that.
“Unbelievable will. Unbelievable work ethic. Unbelievable belief in himself. That’s what I think about when I think about the nine years that I spent with that dude.”
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