Antonio Brown isn't sure what the future holds - or if it will include a return to the NFL - but the former All-Pro wide receiver did admit Thursday morning that he could have handled his final season with the Pittsburgh Steelers in a better fashion.
Brown, who made seven Pro Bowls in nine seasons with the Steelers, apologized Monday to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, head coach Mike Tomlin and the Rooney family, who owns the team.
"I apologize to those guys for the distractions, for the unwanted attention I probably caused those guys...to the organization," Brown said Thursday in a wide ranging interview on 93.7 The Fan's morning show with Colin Dunlap. "Obviously you want to clear out any baggage or disrespect or unintended attention that was brought onto the organization. These guys gave me an opportunity when I was 21 years old and I'm forever grateful for those guys...to have the opportunity to not only play with those guys, but to be in so many major moments. We've been through so much, so I am forever grateful and indebted to the Steelers organization, Mr. Rooney, Mike Tomlin, [general manager] Kevin Colbert, Ben Roethlisberger."
By and large, Brown's time on the field with the Steelers was a rousing success. After the Steelers selected him out of Central Michigan in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Brown established himself as perhaps the best wide receiver in the sport. He led the NFL in catches and receiving yards twice during his nine seasons with the Steelers, and was an All-Pro selection four times. Quite simply, with the 11,207 yards he racked up during his time with the team, Brown put himself on a path to the Pro Foootball Hall of Fame.
However, things reached the point of no return at the conclusion of the 2018 season.
With the Steelers still in postseason contention, Brown was benched for the team's Week 17 tilt with the Cincinnati Bengals after a dispute that Gerry Dulac and Ed Bouchette of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette say ended with Brown firing a football at Roethlisberger and refusing to practice for the rest of the week.
In March of 2019, the Steelers traded Brown to the Oakland Raiders for a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
"For so long when you're playing football you bottle up so many emotions...you carry those emotions for years and years and years...and it just got to the point where I was like 'Man, I wanna have more respect.' For me, the last game I had some adversity, but it was just time to move on and do something more positive. I was just emotionally drained and frustrated about how everything went down. A lot of stuff goes down and people don't know what really happened...people just write about it and make assumptions. But people don't know the truth of what emotions players really go through."