• Brian L. Barefield

My Mind Playing Tricks On Me

The great negro poets, Geto Boys (Scarface, Wille D, Bushwick Bill-RIP) had a #1 hit on the BillBoard charts in 1991 off their album, "We Can't Be Stopped" called "My Mind Playing Tricks On Me." Some of the lyrics from the song that focused on mental health issues went as follows:

Can't keep a steady hand because I'm nervous Every Sunday mornin' I'm in service Prayin' for forgiveness And tryin' to find an exit out the business I know the Lord is lookin' at me But yet and still it's hard for me to feel happy

Now I'm feelin' lonely My mind is playin' tricks on me

I can imagine that song plays on repeat in the mind of former New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown. He was acquired by the reigning Super Bowl Champions after his tumultuous time with the Oakland Raiders. Oakland traded a third and fifth round draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft that was held earlier this year to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the rights to the four-time All-Pro selection and future Hall of Famer.

New England knew they were not getting a model citizen in Brown. They watched the drama play out in Pittsburgh. From the on the field blow ups with his offensive coordinator and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for not getting enough touches, to going Facebook Live on social media during a locker room celebration after a playoff victory while his head coach Mike Tomlin was addressing the team.

The Patriots were also well aware of what had transpired weeks before they acquired him to make him available to their organization. Brown missed significant time from practice due to a cryotherapy injury he suffered before training camp. He then filed a grievance after the NFL banned his old helmet for the new season that caused more drama to swirl around him. The final straw for Oakland was when he was fined $54,000 by general manager, Mike Mayock, for missing team practices and unexcused absences. That didn’t sit to well with Brown and he caused a huge disturbance by getting into a verbal altercation with Mayock and called him a “Cracker”, a derogatory term used by some African Americans to degrade Anglo Americans.

Brown’s troubles would follow him to New England as days after he signed with the Patriots a report surfaced that he had sexually assaulted and raped a woman three times back in 2017. A second allegation was brought to New England’s attention as a female artist claims that Brown didn’t pay her for her services after she painted a portrait of the star wideout. She also claimed that during the painting of the portrait that he exposed himself to her while wearing a robe. Brown was warned by the NFL, the Patriots, his agent and attorney not to have any further contact with the woman which he disobeyed and sent out a group text with pictures of the artist’s children along with insults towards her.

New England decided that they had enough of Brown and on September 20th they decided to cut him after only playing in one game (Dolphins). The distractions had become too much around an organization that is dealing with an owner who has sexual allegations against him and a defensive player who has been indicted on drug charges.

But what if I told you that I believe that Brown may be suffering from a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). I can hear the naysayers now saying that I am making an excuse for a pompous, spoiled, entitled butthole who wants things his way. Funny thing is, before Saturday I would have said that same thing to myself. As I was riding to the gym listening to a sports channel on XM Radio, a caller made a point that made me stop and look at the situation totally different.

The caller spoke about how his wife had been dealing with a brain injury after she fell at work and how their whole lives had changed since then. The gentleman said that his wife began to do things she normally didn’t do before the accident. He said she suffered the injury in the frontal lobe of her brain which controls cognitive skills, emotional expressions, problem solving memory, language, judgement and sexual behaviors. The frontal lobe is the control panel of our brains.

Sound familiar? Can you associate any of those things to Antonio Brown? Ok, let me help you. How many of you all remember the hit former Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict put on Brown in the 2015 Wild-Card playoff game? Do you remember where Brown was hit and concussed? That hit caused Brown to miss the AFC Championship game and caused a downward spiral in his behavior.

Let’s look at a list of things Brown has done since that fatal hit:

· Skipped OTAs the next season because Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t in attendance.

· Disappeared for a week during training camp and didn’t tell his coach where he was going. Coach Tomlin thought he was in Pittsburg having medical tests done, when he was really in Miami.

· Makes a joke in a GQ article about cheating on his girlfriend saying, ‘It’s kind of hard to keep it in my pants.”

· Failed to show up to a Monday meeting after a game and said he was pissed because they suck.

· Threatened to fight an ESPN reporter because of an article written about him. “Wait to I see you bro. We gone see what your jaw like,” is what Brown told Jesse Washington from The Undefeated.

· Told police he was late for a team meeting when he was cited for driving 55 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. Brown was driving 100 miles per hour when he was pulled over.

· After a win against the Chiefs, Brown broadcasted the team’s locker room celebration on Facebook Live where you could hear head coach Tomlin saying some disparaging words about the New England Patriots.

· Sued for trashing his apartment and throwing furniture from the 14th floor.

· Sued for not paying a catering bill that was over $35,000.

· Throws a football at Roethlisberger in practice and walks off the field. Skips team’s walkthrough the day before a game. Shows up on gameday and was told to leave the facility because he would not be playing.

· He flatulated in his medical doctor’s face during visit.

· Went on a social media tirade two days after he was cut and said he was retiring from football and made comments about his former teammates, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Fox Sports 1 analyst and NFL Hall of Famer, Shanon Sharpe.

· Showed private messages from current Steelers wide receiver Ju Ju Smith-Schuster.

If I am keeping notes, I would say that irrational behavior, sexual deviancy, lack of judgement, etc. fall right in line of an injury to the frontal lobe.

Now here is your homework. Before he took that hit to the head in 2016 the only antics you heard from Brown was some complaining about getting the ball and some terrible touchdown celebrations. The twerking after scoring against Washington comes to mind.

There were some incidents I left out because they seemed redundant and I am sure after reading all of that you get the gist of what I am saying. I have said before that no one can help Brown until he wants to help himself. The bigger question is. Does he want to get help?

Some will call me a “Brown Apologist,” but I am only trying to get you to look at this thing from a different perspective than what social media, especially Twitter gives you. I would love to see Brown take a year off and get his life together and get back on the field where he is a top-five talent at his position.

Before we totally dismiss the notion that Brown may not suffer from a TBI or CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) and that he should be diagnosed with an ego issue. Lets remember what happened to All-Pro Linebacker Junior Seau on May 2, 2012. Seau's girlfriend found him dead with a gunshot wound to the chest at his home. His family had his brain examined and the examiners found multiple traces of CTE.

It was the same in 2011 when former Chicago Bears player, Dave Duerson who committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest and left a suicide note requesting that his brain be studied for brain trauma.

We may not know what Brown suffers from if anything until he gets the help and starts taking control of his own life. Brown has started taking baby steps by enrolling in on-line courses at Central Michigan where he attended from 2007-09. Hopefully that will help him gain some of the sanity he needs along with seeking some medical attention.

If Brown does not get help and keeps going down this road he will never play another down in the NFL.

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