Here’s an understatement: former NFL wide receiver Antonio Brown has washed out of the NFL. His options narrow with each day. And with a warrant now out for his arrest, Brown’s downward spiral apparently has yet to hit bottom. But maybe, counter-intuitively, Brown actually picked the right time to have a falling out with the biggest league in football. After all, a whole new league is just on the horizon, packed with former NFL talent.
Is Antonio Brown really done with the NFL for good and is he really a good fit for the XFL? Let’s pick apart his record and find out.
Why Antonio Brown isn’t coming back to the NFL anytime soon
The story of Antonio Brown’s dramatic 2018-2019 run — and increasingly alarming 2020 — is a one of a man’s personal life spinning out of control. But even isolating his issues purely to his behavior while on NFL property doesn’t add up to a good look.
Brown feuded with Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. He started skipping practice. He demanded a trade, and he got it.
The Raiders, probably going off Brown’s previously sterling reputation as a locker room favorite, leap on the elite WR. A string of tantrums over new helmet regulations, missed practice time, and a public feud with GM Mike Mayock culminated in Brown again asking for a trade. This time, he got released.
The New England Patriots looked to shore up their offense around an aging Tom Brady. So, of course, they signed Brown with little hesitation. After all, his time with the Raiders was marked by a strange incident where his feet were frostbitten during cryotherapy. Could it have been a meaningless blip on the radar from an otherwise solid player?
Turns out, it wasn’t.
Escalating run-ins with law enforcement
Brown was accused of sexual assault by a former trainer. He played one game with the Patriots, who treated the situation as something to be dealt with in the legal system, rather than their organization.
Then a second accuser emerged. Then Brown sent threatening texts to yet another accuser, who hadn’t reported anything publicly yet. This action, which definitively occurred during his time with the Patriots, ended his NFL career to date.
In the past two months — December 2019 and January 2020 — Brown’s erratic behavior has escalated to worrying levels. Hollywood Police are a fixture at his home. When officers responded to a domestic disturbance at Brown’s home, he filmed himself berating them while they stood silently.
Now, a warrant is out for Brown’s arrest. He is implicated in an assault, which a witness claims may have occurred while he was high. Police gave Brown several days to turn himself in, before issuing the warrant.
So is an organization called the “Xtreme Football League” still a viable option for Brown to fall back on if his legal troubles finally end?
What Antonio Brown thinks about the XFL as an option
Antonio Brown doesn’t think highly of the XFL. When asked by a fan whether he’d considering joining the revived NFL alternative, his answer was a resounding “no.”
Brown continued to pursue work in the NFL between that negative response to the XFL and today. The New Orleans Saints quietly offered Brown a tryout, which amounted to dead air on the topic.
Now that Brown’s longtime agent has dropped him, perhaps the XFL looks like a more alluring option than it did before. Will they have him?
Why Vince McMahon is unlikely to push hard for Antonio Brown
The new version of the XFL is a different kind of league than the original. That version reveled in big, bone-crunching hits. The promotional materials were all about how much more edgy the league was than the stagnant NFL. The games, to put it lightly, didn’t match up to the hype.
This time, owner Vince McMahon is going in an entirely different direction. Taking advantage of falling NFL ratings and the backlash towards the anthem protests, the new plan is to push a fast-paced, clean game of football without the politics. Or the left-leaning social politics that led to those protests, at least — you’ll probably still see some military flyovers at an XFL game or two.
There is already pushback at the idea of letting Johnny Manziel into the league. Could Antonio Brown possibly make the cut under those circumstances? It cuts against the new branding.
But what might seal it off for good is Brown’s own disparagement of the XFL. McMahon isn’t just a heel in the ring; he has a long record of vindictive feuds in business and his personal life, too.
If there is a path for Antonio Brown to make it in the XFL, it’s a narrow one at best.