Week 9's Sunday Night Football may have been compelling enough already to attract a ton of eyeballs. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will go up against the New Orleans Saints.
It will be Tom Brady versus Drew Brees, who just so happen to be see-sawing for all the all-time lead in touchdown passes. Brady was seriously considering going to New Orleans if Brees decided to retire instead of lacing them up for one more year. The NFC South division lead is on the line.
But wait, there's more.
Sunday night will also mark the much-anticipated (but also criticized) return of wide receiver Antonio Brown. The wideout was officially activated off the suspension list on Tuesday, and head coach Bruce Arians said that he will have a role in the offense against New Orleans. Brown joins an already-stacked offense that includes Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski, Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, Scotty Miller, and Chris Godwin, the latter of which hopes to return as well after missing Week 8 with a broken finger.
Bucs Get a Boost
There was interest from several teams for the wide receiver's services, most notably and publicly from the Seattle Seahawks. Still, in the end, the Bucs won out, signing him to a one-year deal for a base salary of $750,000, with incentives that could push the value to $2.5 million. Arians noted that fans shouldn't expect Brown to play a normal amount of snaps for a starting wide receiver, but there will be plays and routes out there for the seven-time Pro Bowler.
"We'll see how much we can get him taught," Arians said. "And the first practice will be a walk-through because we've got a short week coming off Monday night, so we basically miss a practice this week on Wednesday because of the short week, so it'll be a walk-through practice and basically all learning."
How We Got Here
After nine elite seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brown's relationship with the team and organization deteriorated to the point he was traded to the Raiders in the offseason. He became the focal point of HBO's 'Hard Knocks' during the team's training camp but never played a regular-season game in black and silver after disputes with the front office.
He signed with the Patriots hours after his release from Oakland, but played in just one game with New England after allegations of sexual and personal misconduct led to his release. He was suspended for an additional eight games but did not play the rest of the 2019 season, so Sunday night will mark his first game action since September 15, 2019.
Brown will wear No. 81 for Tampa Bay, with Tom Brady getting another chance to throw to him, who was perhaps his biggest advocate in getting a second, and now third chance in the NFL.
The Bucs can ill-afford any distractions, as they have won three straight, including a nail-biter over the Giants on Monday night that came down to a failed two-point conversion by New York that allowed the Bucs to let out a huge sigh of relief. If Brown can fall in line with the Bucs mission this year, this will certainly be a team to watch.