Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians did not give a final decision on Antonio Brown on Monday for the Super Bowl but said he saw the star wide receiver’s progress recently.
Arians said Brown “did a little bit of work [on] Thursday” per NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano. The coach added that Brown’s knee still needs monitoring.
Bruce Arians: "Antonio [Brown] is getting close. He did a little bit of work Thursday. We’ll see how sore he is."
— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) February 1, 2021
Arians also said that Brown “is getting close” per Buccaneers.com’s Scott Smith.
HC Bruce Arians on injured Bucs Antonio Brown, Antoine Winfield, Jr. and Jordan Whitehead: "Antonio looks a little bit better, Antoine looks a little bit better. Antonio is getting close. Jordan, it's way too early to tell still."
— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) February 1, 2021
Brown injured his knee in the Divisional Round at New Orleans on Jan. 17 and didn’t play in the NFC Championship at Green Bay on Jan. 24. Brown didn’t practice last week, and the Bucs listed Brown as doubtful on its Jan. 29 injury report per NBC Sports’ Mike Florio. Whether or not Brown plays, he will earn $750,000 if the Bucs win due to an incentive in his one-year contract with the team, Florio noted.
Arians said Tuesday will be more tell-tale of whether or not Brown plays, which the coach alluded to in a press conference last week.
All Hands on Deck
Whether or not Brown plays, Bucs quarterback Tom Brady will have plenty of capable hands to throw to. Five other players caught touchdowns from Brady in the NFC playoffs. Chris Godwin leads the team with 223 receiving yards in the postseason and tight end Rob Gronkowski owns the top average in yards per catch with 21.5 yards despite blocking primarily.
Tampa built a “gluttony of depth” in positions such as receiver per The Athletic’s Greg Auman. A lot of the talent followed Brady to Tampa after he signed with the Bucs as a free agent in March.
I think the Bucs have done a good job of creating a gluttony of depth in some positions. They didn't need Antonio Brown so much with Evans and Godwin, but he's helped them. They didn't need to add McCoy and Fournette, but the depth is there if they lose either of the top backs.
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) January 30, 2021
Brown caught a touchdown in the Wild Card win at Washington on Jan. 9 but only had a catch for 10 yards against the New Orleans Saints the following week before injuring his knee. He didn’t travel with the team to Green Bay to avoid swelling, Arians said on Jan. 22.
Brown provided a spark for the Bucs offense in the final stretch of the regular season with four touchdowns in three games. He joined the Bucs in October via free agency after sitting out most of the 2019 season due to off-field conduct issues.
Defensive Depth Hindered
Depth on defense could also play a key role on the injury front for the Bucs on Sunday in the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bucs secondary faces a significant impact from recent injuries.
Bucs rookie strong safety Antoine Winfield Jr. may not play due to an ankle injury that kept him out of the NFC Championship game, but Arians said on Monday that Winfield “looks a little bit better” per Smith. Fellow safety Jordan Whitehead injured his labrum against Green Bay in the NFC Championship but past knee injury issues also crept up again per CBS Sports. Arians said “it’s way too early to tell still” for Whitehead according to Smith.
Regardless of who suits up the Bucs’ secondary, they’ll have a tall task on hand against the league’s top-ranked offense led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The Bucs gave up 543 yards against the Chiefs in their last meeting in November, a 27-24 loss.