Antonio Brown has had a lot on his mind this offseason and wants to clear the air.
While speaking to reporters Tuesday before the team’s first mandatory minicamp practice, the Steelers wide receiver discussed his reasons for skipping voluntary practices and said he took some time away from the football field to be with his family.
“I needed a little personal time with myself to get my mind right,” Brown said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The game requires a lot of mental happiness. The older you get, the more you start thinking about what’s important. I have five kids. All that’s left for me to do is a win a championship. I had to take some time off to spend time with my family to see what’s important for me.”
During his absence, a cryptic Instagram post hinted there could be tension between Brown and coach Mike Tomlin as well as former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. However, Brown denied having any hard feelings.
Brown was also unhappy about how his comments regarding Le’Veon Bell and wanting the star rusher to show up for OTAs were taken out of context.
“I don’t have a problem with anyone,” Brown said. “I just feel like as a player you play this game so much you never really get a chance to express yourself. Everyone is always telling us to bottle everything up and say nothing.
“As a player you have to start expressing things to get it out of your head. I think the more you bottle stuff up and don’t express yourself that’s where these players have problems. But we don’t talk about the players who don’t play anymore, the guys who can’t remember anything because their whole careers they were taught to holds stuff in. We can’t really express ourselves at this level.”
Although Brown is no stranger to the spotlight, he expressed his frustration in dealing with the constant criticism and the effect it can have on his relationship with his teammates.
“I play with any quarterback. I play with the Steelers. It’s not one guy,” Brown said. “You guys write the stories. I wake up to Google alerts. I’m constantly under pressure. I can’t go nowhere and work out by myself. Fans come meet me at the field. I can’t do anything normal. My mom and my kids see it. We have to deal with these types of things.”
“I started to think to myself ‘Am I really free?’ I can’t really express myself in this game. I can’t really tell you guys how I feel. You guys put pressure on me all the time. Am I really free? I go to ask myself that in regards to taking away time from my kids. I had to get away to free my mind.”
Brown’s performance, however, doesn’t reflect the stress he feels. The four-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowl selection finished last season leading the league with 1,533 receiving yards for the second time in his career.