Attorney: Tampa Bay Buccaneers used 'surprise attack' to release Antonio Brown amid doctor dispute

TAMPA, Fla. -- Antonio Brown's attorney says the Tampa Bay Buccaneers terminated the wide receiver's contract last week for failing to show up for a doctor's appointment that he could not make, calling the move a "surprise attack" in a series of tweets.

"We were in the midst of scheduling an appointment with the Bucs' chosen surgeon when we learned, via Twitter, that they terminated AB on Thursday for not seeing that very same surgeon," attorney Sean Burstyn tweeted. "... The Bucs picked an arbitrary appointment time outside of normal business hours early Thursday morning. They also fumbled around with a Wednesday afternoon appt at the last minute. (Bucs' new interest in AB's health was a surprise. Wasn't AB 'not a Buc' on Sunday night?)"

Burstyn wrote that they tried to reschedule and said the Buccaneers are claiming that Brown was "refusing to show up to a doctor's appointment" as justification for his release.

"The Bucs did this because they know that Coach Arians' on-the-field termination of AB was degrading, inhumane, abusive, and unlawful. So they tried covering it up using their latest dirty trick: 'Surprise attack' medical care that they [never] reasonably planned for AB to receive," Burstyn tweeted. "This was pure gamesmanship to create a pretextual termination. All Antonio did was ask to be seen at a reasonable hour by a doctor with current medical records. When AB spoke up about his health this week, he was fired. On the field, then on Twitter."

Brown said in a statement Wednesday that he was unable to play during Sunday's game against the New York Jets due to an ankle injury. He said an MRI on Monday revealed broken bone fragments, a ligament torn from the bone and cartilage loss and that surgery will be needed.

Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said Thursday that while he and Brown discussed the ankle injury during the week and that the wide receiver didn't participate in practice on the Thursday and Friday preceding the game, he participated in Saturday's walk-through and was cleared to play. Arians said he was not made aware of how bad Brown's injury was during the game and that Brown's frustration had to do with his lack of targets.

Brown said last week that he had informed Buccaneers coaches that he couldn't play due to the injury but was told "you're done" and "get the f--- out of here." Brown then took off his jersey, threw his gloves and undershirt into the stands, and jogged off the field.

Arians said he would never ask a player to play injured.

Burstyn said he believes the Buccaneers are using Brown's history (11 games missed due to suspension over the past two seasons, an arrest for assaulting a moving truck driver and two public allegations of sexual assault) against him. While Brown acknowledged he has "made mistakes" in his statement, Brown and Burstyn argue that shouldn't preclude him from feeling pain and speaking out when he felt he was too hurt to play.

"The Bucs have used AB's past to get out of the jam they put themselves in last Sunday," Burstyn tweeted. "It's the kind of manipulation that made Antonio write 'I do not understand how people publicly claiming to be concerned about my mental health can do these things to me in private.'"

Comments by Brown on Friday on the "Full Send Podcast" also indicate that he had grown increasingly frustrated with his salary. Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Brown's agent had approached the team recently about guaranteeing $2 million of his incentives and that Tampa Bay declined.

Licht also told Schefter that the Buccaneers made two appointments in New York, where Brown still was after leaving Sunday's game, so they could place him on injured reserve and pay him the remainder of his salary for the season. Licht said Brown never returned their texts or phone calls, nor did he send over his medical records, including the MRI that Brown had Monday, which they requested.

According to the collective bargaining agreement, a team-appointed doctor must perform a physical for a player to be placed on injured reserve. A player can get a second opinion, which the players' union encourages.

Burstyn said they never received a request for medical records.

"Show me a request for medical records. We never got one," Burstyn told ESPN, adding that the team called Wednesday and asked for a response. "Did not tell us what the call was about. Said to call back at our 'earliest convenience.' We had an internal team discussion Thursday morning to go over options before calling back. By noon, they went ahead and took the most drastic action: fired."