Don't expect the drama between Antonio Brown and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to end anytime soon.
In fact, the entire situation may move from the football field to the courtroom.
Brown and his attorney, Sean Burstyn, appeared in the most recent episode of HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel for a 1-on-1 interview to talk about the entire saga and both Brown and Burstyn left Gumbel with the impression that a defamation lawsuit could be filed against the Bucs in the future.
According to Brown and Burstyn, the Bucs offered Brown $200,000 to remove himself from the game and accept a "form of intensive mental health treatment". Essentially, the Bucs wanted Brown to say he needed treatment in order to back their side of the story.
The duo didn't specify what type of treatment was wanted or suggested, but their bottom line remains clear: In their eyes, Brown doesn't have mental health issues and the Bucs' alleged actions could have litigious ramifications.
Below is a transcript of the discussion, courtesy of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel:
Antonio Brown: Yeah, these guys at Tampa Bay Bucs tried to make an agreement with me to give me $200,000 to go to the crazy house so these guys could look like they know what they're talking about.
Bryant Gumbel: They offered you $200,000 for what?
Sean Burstyn: The off-- the offer was Antonio would basically sit on the sidelines, go on some list-- and commit himself to some form of intensive mental health treatment. And we were specifically told, in writing, by the general manager, twice, "Don't spin this any other way.”
Bryant Gumbel: Are you suggesting--that a defamation lawsuit is-- is possible?
Sean Burstyn: Defamation comes to mind.
Bryant Gumbel: Your figures, give me a number.
Antonio Brown: A whole lotta money. A whole lot. It's-- it's totally disrespect, man. You know, it's-- mental health is an important key in the world, so to drag people along and play on people's mental health, you know, it's-- it's unfair and unfortunate.
Brown also made it clear during the interview that he did in fact alert Bruce Arians about his injured ankle on that fateful day in New York and that Arians' response was to the tune of "you're done", essentially. Whether or not that's the truth remains to be seen, but either way, Brown has certainly dug his heels in and drawn the line between his side of the story and Arians'.
Brown and Burstyn also claim they have proof that both the Bucs and Brown knew about the ankle injury and agreed upon it in private.
“We actually, Bryant, have documentary and contemporaneous evidence that Antonio did tell Bruce Arians that his ankle was hurt on the sideline,” Burstyn said. “Because the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers interviewed Bruce Arians the Sunday night shortly after the game and texted our camp the notes from that interview, which state that Bruce Arians told the GM that Antonio complained on the sideline about his ankle injury. So there's no question. I think both sides, at least privately, are in agreement that Antonio's ankle was injured and he directly told the team about that.”
I'm no lawyer, so I have no idea if a defamation suit can arise out of these circumstances. Brown and Burstyn say they have proof that back their accusations, which makes their case seem valid. Why would they lie about having proof? Eventually, they'll have to produce it. If they can't, it blows their entire claim out of the water.
In other words: There's still a long ways to go and we don't know know where it's going.
But it is easy to see, however, that whichever party ends up with the short end of the stick is not only going to lose in the court of law, but they’ll lose in the court of public opinion, as well.
You can check out a snippet of the interview, here.
Stay tuned to AllBucs for further coverage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and other NFL news and analysis. Follow along on social media at @SIBuccaneers on Twitter and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sports Illustrated on Facebook.