Le’Veon Bell has only been with the Buccaneers for a couple of weeks, but he has a longstanding relationship with Antonio Brown. They grew close during their five seasons with the Steelers and have remained friends since Bell left the team via his 2018 holdout.

That made Brown’s mid-game release from the Bucs difficult for Bell to stomach.

“It’s tough,” Bell said of Brown’s release during a postgame news conference. “Honestly, when I came over here, I was happy to be reunited with him. Unfortunately, [it’s] only [for] two games.”

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Bruce Arians announced that Brown was “no longer a Buccaneer” after Brown’s sideline meltdown midway through the third quarter of Tampa Bay’s 28-24 win over the Jets. 

During the meltdown, Brown removed his jersey, pads and undershirt and threw his shirt into the stands. He then ran towards the locker room but stopped in the end-zone to pump up the New York crowd before flashing a peace sign and leaving the field. He wasn’t seen again.

Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reports that the dispute began after Brown refused to enter the game at Arians’ request.

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Bell and his teammates were largely unaware of what was happening with Brown as it unfolded. Most found out that he was released after the game, and Bell reached out to him immediately after hearing the news.

“He’s still one of my close friends,” Bell said. “Like you won’t hear me talking bad about AB at all. Obviously I understand things happen, but he’s one of my closest friends that I’ve been around. Close teammate, overall good person. Obviously, some bad decision-making sometimes but you know, he’s human. He’s not perfect.”

Brown has run into plenty of trouble during his NFL career. Most recently, he was suspended for three games after misrepresenting his vaccination status. Arians and the Buccaneers welcomed him back, but his most recent outburst was one he could not overcome.

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While Bell and Brown will no longer be teammates, Bell is still planning on supporting his long-time friend.

“At the end of the day, I wish the best for him outside of football or wherever next for him,” Bell said. “He’s still one of my close friends. Like I said, I’ll still be hanging out with him and talking to him on a daily basis, and I’ll continue to try and make plays for this team.”