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Mike Evans: Antonio Brown wanted “the rock” before meltdown

Mike Florio and Charean Williams draft their picks for the most memorable storylines and moments from the 2021-22 NFL season.

The Buccaneers had a chance to become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since the 2004 Patriots. They would have had a better chance with Antonio Brown.

Bucs receiver Mike Evans filled in some details on what prompted his former teammate’s meltdown during a victory over the Jets on Jan. 2.

Evans agreed that, with the loss of Chris Godwin to a season-ending knee injury, the Bucs needed Brown. The team cut Brown four days after his shirtless sprint to the locker room during the game.

“On the TV timeout, we see that he was doing all that stuff -- taking his pads off, doing jumping jacks,” Evans told Matt Harmon of Yahoo Sports. “It was unfortunate. I didn’t know that it was going to go down like that. I thought we were going to go to the playoffs and have a chance to repeat, and he would definitely have helped us.”

Evans confirmed Brown was agitated with not getting the ball. Brown, who had five targets and three catches for 26 yards against the Jets before leaving, was 28 catches, 255 receiving yards and three touchdowns from meeting $2 million in incentives.

Brown, 33, claims coach Bruce Arians tried to force the receiver back in the game on an injured ankle that needed surgery. Arians told Brown to leave after the sideline argument, and Brown indeed made an unforgettable exit.

“What I remember is we were trying to get him to come back in the game,” Evans told Harmon. “He was saying he wanted the rock, and rightfully so. We should have gotten him the rock. He’s an unbelievable player. But I was like, ‘Yo, come in the game, AB.’ So we were asking him to come in the game. We were on offense. I’m like, ‘AB, big bro, come on, let’s go in the game. They’re calling for us.’ Because me and him are both on a pitch count, because we’re both coming back from injury. So I’m trying to get him to come in the game, and he doesn’t come. So I go back on the drive. I do my two plays. I come out. I see BA (Arians) still trying to get him come in the game, and they had a falling out somehow. AB goes off, and he’s about to take his pads off. I’m trying to grab his pads and tell him like, ‘Yo, big bro. . . .’ because me and him have a relationship. I don’t want him to go out like this. Like, obviously we need him, so I’m telling him, ‘Big bro, we need you. The season’s almost over. If you don’t want to be here, the next year you can leave.’ Obviously, I just didn’t want him to go out like that. So I’m telling him, ‘Please don’t go out like this.’ They’re calling me to go back in the game, so I just left him alone.”

The only question that remains is whether another team will give Brown a fifth chance after his stints with the Steelers, Patriots, Raiders and Bucs ended so badly.