Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
Actually, we might have to start calling this the “Antonio Brown Newsletter” because I feel like that’s all we’ve been talking about this week and let me just say, that won’t be changing today. Brown decided to release a lengthy statement Wednesday night where he went into detail on all his issues with the Buccaneers, and then Tampa Bay responded less than 24 hours later by doing their own release: They released him. Neither of those things was too surprising, though. The surprising part came Thursday morning when he decided to turn on Tom Brady, who I’m pretty sure was his only NFL friend left in the world.
We’ll be taking a closer look at the Brown situation, plus we’ll dissecting the drama going on between Aaron Rodgers and that MVP voter in Chicago. Also, as the resident Bengals homer here at CBSSports.com, it is my obligation to let everyone know that today is the 31st anniversary of their last playoff win.
Back on Jan. 6, 1991, the Bengals beat the Oilers 41-14. My dad (Jim Breech) still holds the honor of being the last Bengals player to score in a Bengals playoff win. He is 65. That is how insanely long it’s been. Every other NFL team — except for the Lions — has at least one playoff win since 2000.
Alright, let’s end this trip down memory lane and get to the rundown.
As always, here’s your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the Pick Six newsletter. To get your friends to sign up, all you have to do is click here and then share this link with them. If you want to help everyone you know get off to a good start in 2022, then you’ll definitely want to subscribe them to this newsletter.
1. Today’s show: CBS Sports NFL Insider Josina Anderson
It’s been a wild week of news around the NFL, especially involving Antonio Brown, so to break it all down, Will Brinson invited CBS Sports NFL Insider Josina Anderson on to the show Thursday. The podcast won’t be released until Thursday afternoon, but here’s a sneak peek of what the two talked about:
- Reaction to the Antonio Brown situation. Brown released a lengthy statement Wednesday night, and Anderson will have some details on what the reaction around the league has been.
- Are teams still interested in Brown? Anderson reported Tuesday that Brown could easily get another NFL job if he wants one, which is likely one reason why the Buccaneers haven’t released him yet. Once the Buccaneers do cut ties with Brown, there will likely be multiple teams interested in his services. However, one thing to keep in mind is that he won’t be able to help his next team on the field until next season due to his ankle injury.
- Could Brown’s injury situation have an impact on how future NFL injuries are handled? Brown has accused Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians of trying to make him play while he was injured, and if that ends up being the reason why Brown stormed off the field, the NFL is going to have an ugly situation on its hands. There’s a chance the NFLPA could tell the league that it needs to do more to protect players.
In other news, the day after the regular season is known as Black Monday around the NFL, and that’s because it’s the day when most firings take place. With that in mind, Brinson and Anderson talked about how many job openings there might be come Monday. With jobs opening up around the league, will this be the year that Jim Harbaugh finally returns to the NFL? That’s a key topic that will be touched on during today’s podcast.
To listen to today’s show, be sure to click here.
2. Antonio Brown breaks silence on Buccaneers exit
It took a few days, but Antonio Brown is finally telling his side of the story and he that by releasing a lengthy statement Wednesday night that was nearly 1,000 words long. For the most part, Brown used the statement to throw Bruce Arians and the Buccaneers under the snowplow, which is way worse than being thrown under a bus.
Here’s a look at what Brown had to say:
- What led to Sunday’s blowup. According to Brown, Arians asked him to enter the game against the Jets, but the receiver insisted he couldn’t due to his ankle. At that point, Brown claims Arians “didn’t call for medical attention. Instead, he shouted at me, ‘YOU’RE DONE!’ while he ran his finger across his throat. Coach was telling me that if I didn’t play hurt, then I was done with the Bucs.”
- Brown insists that he didn’t quit on his teammates. “I didn’t quit. I was cut. I didn’t walk away from my brothers. I was thrown out. Being fired on the sideline for having a painful injury was bad enough. Then came their ‘spin.’ Coach denied on national television that he knew about my ankle. That’s 100% inaccurate.”
- Brown claims Arians is lying about the situation. Following the Buccaneers win, Arians said Brown never brought up his injured ankle while the two were arguing on the sideline. Brown said that’s a total lie. “Not only did he know I missed several games with the injury, he and I exchanged texts days before the game where he clearly acknowledged my injury. He obviously knew I was on the injury list.”
- The Buccaneers allegedly had Brown take a painkiller he wasn’t crazy about taking. “Despite the pain, I suited up, the staff injected me with what I now know was a powerful and sometimes dangerous painkiller that the NFLPA has warned against using, and I gave it my all for the team.”
- Brown’s ankle is so bad that he apparently needs surgery. The receiver underwent an MRI on Monday and according to Brown, the MRI showed multiple injuries, including a broken bone fragment stuck in his ankle, a ligament being torn from the bone and cartilage loss. Brown said he’ll be undergoing surgery, which means if he plays in the NFL again, it won’t be until next year.
- Brown calls out Tom Brady trainer’s. If Brown had one defender on the team, it was definitely Tom Brady, but that might not be the case anymore. In a social media post Thursday, Brown called out Brady’s trainer Alex Guerrero for allegedly ripping him off. Brown claims he paid $100,000 for services that Guerrero didn’t really provide. Basically, it seems like Brown is burning every bridge on his way out of Tampa Bay.
If you want to read Brown’s entire statement, be sure to click here.
The Buccaneers responded by releasing Brown Thursday while also sharing their version of events.
- The team says Brown never brought up his injury. Brown played through the third quarter of Sunday’s game and the Buccaneers noted that “at no point during the game did [Brown] indicate to our medical personnel that he could not play.”
- Brown may have been mad at the Buccaneers. According to ESPN.com, Brown’s camp went to Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht last week and asked if the team would fully guarantee the remaining $2 million in contract incentives that he had. The Bucs turned him down and then obviously, the drama went down a few days later.
- Buccaneers tried to help Brown this week. According to the team, the Buccaneers tried to set up a medical evaluation for Brown this week, but the receiver was unwilling to participate. The team also tried to get the medical information from his MRI on Monday, but Brown never sent it their way.
This definitely sounds like a situation that could get uglier before it gets better.
3. NFL eyeing backup locations for Super Bowl
With COVID cases on the rise around the country, some states are putting restrictions on what kind of events can he held indoors and one of those states is California, which is where Super Bowl LVI is scheduled to be held on Feb. 13.
Due to the situation, the NFL has started the process of looking for backup locations just in case the game can’t be held in Los Angeles.
- California’s indoor mask mandate just got extended. The mandate was scheduled to end Jan. 15, but it has now been extended to Feb. 15, which means it would apply to the Super Bowl unless the game lands some sort of exemption.
- One location being looked at is Dallas. It’s not easy to move a Super Bowl on such short notice, but one venue willing to host the game would be AT&T Stadium in Dallas. It hosted the Rose Bowl in January 2021 after that game had to be moved out of California, and it has already hosted a Super Bowl.
- NFL insists the game will be played in L.A. “We plan on playing Super Bowl 56 as scheduled at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 13,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Wednesday, via the AP. “As part of our standard contingency planning process that we conduct for all regular and postseason games, we have contacted several clubs to inquire about stadium availability in the event we cannot play the Super Bowl as scheduled due to weather-related issues or unforeseen circumstances.
- California doesn’t want to lose the Super Bowl. Not only did the NFL insist that the game will stay in Los Angeles, but so did the Governor’s office, which offered this statement Wednesday, “California is looking forward to hosting” and that “the state is working with the NFL to have a safe and exciting event.”
One big indoor event in Los Angeles has already been postponed (the Grammy Awards), but for right now, it looks like the Super Bowl is going to be played in Southern California as scheduled. However, the NFL has backup locations ready in case L.A. hospitals get overwhelmed or if the COVID spike gets worse in the area.
4. Aaron Rodgers is in a spat with an MVP voter
It’s not often you see an MVP candidate get into a spat with an MVP voter, but that’s exactly what’s happening this week with between Chicago-based reporter Hub Arkush and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Here are the details on the situation:
- Arkush calls Rodgers ‘the biggest jerk in the league.’ The drama started during a radio interview Tuesday when Arkush said he wasn’t going to vote for Rodgers due to all the drama he caused this year. “I just think that the way he’s carried himself is inappropriate. I think he’s a bad guy, and I don’t think a bad guy can be the most valuable guy at the same time,” Arkush said, via PFT. “I don’t think you can be the biggest jerk in the league and punish your team, and your organization and your fan base the way he did and be the Most Valuable Player.”
- Rodgers responds to the criticism. The Packers QB was asked about the situation Wednesday and didn’t hold back. “I think he’s a bum,” Rodgers said of Arkush. “I think he’s an absolute bum. He doesn’t know me. I don’t know who he is; no one knew who he was, probably, until [Tuesday’s] comments. I listened to the comments, but to say he had his mind made up in the summertime, in the offseason, that I had zero chance of winning MVP, in my opinion, should exclude future votes.”
- Arkush offers an apology. The MVP voter wrote a column where he mentioned that he “couldn’t be more sorry.” He specifically wrote that he “couldn’t possibly be more sorry for joining the conversation at all and some of the childish things I said about Aaron Rodgers.” He then called out anyone who thought his vote should be taken away, because they “have no clue what they’re talking about to challenge the quality of the voting process and would attempt to invalidate any vote or thought process that doesn’t agree with their own.”
If you decided not to vote for someone before the season even started due to their vaccination status and other off-the-field stuff, that definitely seems like an issue. If you don’t agree with Rodgers’ decision to be unvaccinated, that’s fine, but the MVP doesn’t stand for Most Vaccinated Player, it stands for Most Valuable Player, so anyone who considers his vaccination status when turning in their vote is making a mockery of the voting process and probably shouldn’t have a vote.
5. QB news dump: Joe Burrow out Sunday, Jimmy Garoppolo’s status still up in the air
If you’re going to be betting on any NFL games this week, you might want to wait another day or two before locking in those bets, because there are some serious quarterback questions around the league heading into Week 18.
Let’s take a look at who might be starting and who might be on the bench come this weekend:
- Jimmy Garoppolo says his thumb hurts. The 49ers QB was a limited participant in practice Wednesday due to his injured thumb. When asked how his thumb felt, Jimmy was brutally honest, “http://www.cbssports.com/”F-, it hurts.” The 49ers can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Rams on Sunday, so this is a huge game, which is why Garoppolo is trying to play. However, if he can’t go, then Trey Lance will get his second consecutive start.
- Joe Burrow out for Bengals. With a playoff berth already locked up, the Bengals have decided to give Burrow a week off so he can rest up for the postseason. With Burrow out, that means Brandon Allen will likely be the starter Sunday against the Browns.
- Baker Mayfield placed on IR. The Browns QB is officially done for the year and will be undergoing surgery on his torn labrum Jan. 19. The Baker-Burrow showdown that was originally scheduled for Sunday is now likely going to be Case Keenum against Brandon Allen. That’s almost as fun.
- Teddy Bridgewater placed on IR. The Broncos QB hasn’t played since suffering a concussion in Week 15, and he will not be returning to the field this year after being placed on IR. The move means Drew Lock will get to close the season as the starter.
- Bears planned to start Justin Fields, but now he’s on the COVID list. The Bears QB hasn’t played since Week 15 due to an ankle injury, but he was expected to make his return Sunday for the team’s season finale against the Vikings. On Thursday, however, Chicago placed Fields on the reserve/COVID-19 list, which likely ends his rookie campaign.
- Kirk Cousins off the COVID list. The Vikings QB missed Minnesota’s Week 17 showdown with the Packers, but he will be back for the team’s finale Sunday against the Bears.
- Lamar Jackson still not practicing. The Ravens QB was out of practice Wednesday, which seems to make it likely that we won’t be seeing him on the field for Baltimore’s finale against the Steelers.
- Giants down to their third-string QB. The Giants will be turning to Jake Fromm this week after losing Mike Glennon to a wrist injury. The Giants are closing the season against Washington.
There are several other QB situations worth watching. Dak Prescott, Jalen Hurts and Aaron Rodgers are all players who could join Joe Burrow on the bench as quarterbacks who are being rested for the playoffs. However, there’s a chance all three could see some playing time this weekend.
6. Rapid-fire roundup
It’s been a busy 24 hours in the NFL, and since it’s nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you.
- Projected top pick Aidan Hutchinson declares for the draft. The Michigan pass-rusher, who finished second in the Heisman voting, has officially declared for the 2022 NFL Draft.
- Washington signs its left tackle to three-year extension. It’s been a wild year for Charles Leno. After being cut by the Bears in May, he landed a one-year deal with Washington. He played so well that the Football Team has rewarded him with a three-year extension worth up to $37.5 million, according to NFL.com.
- NFL teams could face harsh punishment for improper questioning of draft prospects. If any NFL teams get out of line when interviewing draft prospects this year, they could face some stiff punishments. If this situation comes up, a team could be fined and/or forced to forfeit a draft pick. You can read more about the situation by clicking here. In other draft news, the NFL has also dumped the Wonderlic test.
- Chargers coach says he won’t play for tie. If the Jaguars win on Sunday, that would put the Chargers and Raiders in a situation where a tie would get BOTH teams into the playoffs. However, don’t look for Los Angeles to consider that. Chargers coach Brandon Staley made it very clear that his team would not be playing for a tie, even if it would help them.
- Cowboys add three starters to COVID list. Do-it-all defender Micah Parsons, cornerback Anthony Brown and offensive tackle Tyron Smith have been added to the COVID list. Parsons has already been ruled out for Saturday’s game against the Eagles, while the other two will likely sit out as well.
- Two-time Super Bowl winning coordinator Greg Robinson dies. Former Syracuse coach Greg Robinson passed away Wednesday at the age of 70 due to complications from Alzheimer’s. Robinson made a name for himself as a defensive coordinator with the Broncos. During his six seasons with the team (1995-2000), Denver won two Super Bowls.