Antonio Brown will have a new number when he makes his Tampa Bay Buccaneers debut. Brown will wear No. 81 when he dons the pewter, red and black for the Buccaneers, per The Athletic’s Greg Auman. This is a few digits off from his signature No. 84 with the Steelers and No. 17 Brown briefly wore with the Patriots.
“Here’s your answer: Antonio Brown will wear No. 81 for the Bucs …,” Auman tweeted.
While Brown is able to participate in meetings, the receiver is not eligible to return to the field again until Week 9 against the Saints as he serves the remaining week of his suspension. Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians described Brown as an “insurance policy” with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin among the receivers battling injuries this season.
“It’s an insurance policy,” Arians said, per ESPN. “When we don’t have Mike [Evans], and we don’t have Chris [Godwin — why not have another Pro Bowl player, caliber player, that’s available that fits our cap, and fits everything else, so why not? We have good players. You can’t have enough of ’em. In Chicago, we got one of our top guys [Evans] out there on one leg. Why not have another one?”
During the Offseason, Brown Admitted It Would Be an ‘Honor’ to Play Again With Brady
Brown has been vocal about his desire to join Brady at his next destination after the duo only played one game together with the Patriots. Brady and Brown developed a friendship during their short time together in New England and appeared to have continued that relationship even while the receiver has been absent from the NFL. During a March interview on 102.5’s The Bone’s Mike Calta Show, Brown admitted it would be an “honor” to play with Brady again in Tampa.
“I’d be really grateful if I had the opportunity to play in Tampa Bay, to play anywhere,” Brown said, per The Washington Post. “Obviously to play with Tom Brady would be an extreme honor. You know his quality of leadership. You know, his [passion], the want to win. Anytime you can be around a guy like that, man, it’s an extreme honor. You know you’re going to have opportunity to do something exciting.”
Arians on A.B. Signing: ‘This Team’s Too Good Not to Make That Run’
Over the offseason, Arians made no secret that he was not in favor of the Buccaneers signing Brown. The Bucs coach even said it was “not going to happen.” Arians cited the numerous injuries at receiver as well as the Buccaneers’ potential to contend for a Super Bowl as the two key reasons for his change of heart.
“Offensively we’ve been struggling all year with injuries,” Arians told NBC Sports’ Peter King. “I wanna be able to make that playoff push with whoever’s available. Kinda the same thing we did with [veteran center] A.Q. Shipley. We brought him in just in case. So, we got a dominant center sitting on the bench. This team’s too good not to make that run and give our guys, our locker room, every chance. This move wasn’t made without me talking to every single one of our veteran players. Do you want this guy? Do you want this guy in our locker room? Every man said yes.”