Antonio Brown, available for Super Bowl 55 after missing NFC Championship game, says he's grateful to Bucs – USA TODAY

As he prepares to play in Super Bowl 55 a year after his football career remained in jeopardy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown described himself as “grateful” and “honored” to have this opportunity. 
Brown missed all but one game of the 2019 season while the NFL investigated accusations of sexual misconduct and multiple violations of the personal conduct policy, then served an eight-game suspension to start the 2020 season. His trial date over a civil sexual assault and rape suit was postponed a year until December 2021. He had a run-in with a moving company and pleaded no contest in June to a felony burglary and battery charge from an incident outside his home in Florida.
Tampa Bay signed him in October, and he played the final eight games of the season and two playoff games (missing the NFC Championship game with a knee injury).
But Brown said his goal during the last three months has centered on repaying the Buccaneers for taking a chance on him by serving as a productive player, leader and human being. 
“These guys really embraced me … they took me in, and it’s been a tremendous honor to be here and play with some great guys in the locker room,” Brown said Wednesday, the first day he was made available to reporters during Super Bowl week.
“The coaching staff has embraced me and welcomed me with open arms, and I really appreciate the opportunity to pay these guys back with my work ethic, my production, leadership as far as helping the young guys and everybody here.”
The 32-year-old Brown had a decorated first nine seasons of his career, appearing in seven Pro Bowls and earning first-team All-Pro honors four times. But after his relationship with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and coach Mike Tomlin deteriorated in 2018, Brown forced his way out of Pittsburgh.
He spent a portion of the 2019 preseason with the Raiders, who traded for him, then forced his way out of there as well. New England signed him after his release, but he played just one game with the Patriots, who released him following accusations of sexual misconduct.
At last year’s Super Bowl, when asked about Brown’s status, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he hoped Brown could get help and get his life back on track. Brown said Wednesday he hadn’t spoken to Goodell recently but he believed NFL officials “did a good job with the process of helping me and getting me to this point. I’m super grateful about the opportunity to restart my career here and do what I continue to love and continue to fulfill my dream as a kid.”
The Buccaneers were the only team that offered him an opportunity this season. Tom Brady had something to do with that, and Brady on Wednesday said he has tried to serve as a positive influence for Brown as a person and player. 
Brown said he never lost hope he would return to the NFL.
“I just think it was my only chance to prove, not only the doubters, but prove to myself I’m still a high-end football player. Still love the game. Still love to compete, and I had to prove it to myself. I never gave up or gave in. I stayed consistent to my goals and my vision and here I am now, and I’m grateful.”
Brown has had a much smaller role in Tampa than he did in Pittsburgh, where he was a leading receiver. Now, he’s the third and sometimes fourth option. He recorded 45 catches for 484 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season.
Asked about how he spent the suspension, Brown said, “I just stayed disciplined. Stayed dedicated to the vision of whatever were my goals in regards to getting back in this moment and doing all the right things.”
As far as “doing all the right things,” Brown said, “Well, it’s all about controlling your emotions, physically, mentally. When you don’t feel good, not being a sling-shot when others come at me. Learning how to control my attitude and not letting my emotions get the best of me, and if I feel like someone is wrong for doing what they did, being forgiving and staying positive.”

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