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‘Genuine’ NFL interest in Antonio Brown as he plays for arena team

Ahead of his Arena Football League debut this weekend, Antonio Brown’s agent told CBS Sports that there has been “genuine” interest from NFL teams who could potentially consider signing the controversial star receiver.

“He is exploring the right fit,” J.R. Rickert, Brown’s agent, told CBS Sports, which has also included working with the AFL franchise in the city where his father, Eddie Brown, starred in the 1990s.

If an opportunity emerged, it’d mark a strange return to the NFL for Brown, who hasn’t played in a game — or signed with a team — since walking off the field shirtless at MetLife Stadium during a Buccaneers game against the Jets in January 2022.

Then-Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said following the game that Brown was no longer a member of the team, and that has remained the same for Tampa Bay — and any other NFL franchise — in the 17 months since.

Antonio Brown will play for the Arena Football League's Albany Empire this weekend.
Screengrab via Twitter/@Griffin__Haas

Recently, Brown has focused his attention on the AFL’s Albany Empire, though there has been some confusion as to whether he actually owns the organization.

But KPRC 2, Houston’s NBC affiliate, reported Thursday that Brown’s contract was being filed onto the Empire’s roster, and after practicing, the 34-year-old was expected to make his debut Saturday when Albany hosts the Fayetteville Mustangs.

Brown ran one route in practice, according to Albany’s News10ABC.

“I think that he is a multi-talented individual who does everything at a high level,” Rickert told CBS Sports, “and whatever he commits to, he goes all in.”

In the 2021 season, Brown played in seven games, caught 42 passes for 545 yards and collected four touchdowns for the Buccaneers, with Tom Brady as his quarterback.

He also helped Tampa Bay win the Super Bowl in its previous season, which was his first alongside Brady and Arians following tumultuous tenures — filled with off-field issues that overshadowed any on-field production — with the Steelers, Raiders and Patriots.

Brown missed three games in 2021 due to a suspension for acquiring a fake COVID-19 vaccination card.

Antonio Brown last played in an NFL game while a member of the Buccaneers in 2021-22.
Getty Images

Rickert was asked by CBS Sports about the off-field issues, lawsuits, allegations and whether that’d lead to any discipline from the NFL, should Brown receive a contract, and the agent appeared to dodge the question and replied by saying that he “had a tremendously positive experience working with AB, and would hope that I (can) continue to be a strong advocate and advisor.”

But during his time with the Steelers, Brown also made six Pro Bowls and four First-Team AP All-Pro lists, and he also led the NFL in total receptions (twice) and receiving yards (twice) at different points of his career.