Antonio Brown bumped Bryant Mitchell from Bucs back to Canada with Bombers

Photo courtesy: Barry Reeger

There was a chance the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were going to re-sign receiver Bryant Mitchell during their Super Bowl campaign, but Antonio Brown joined the team.

Mitchell was released by the Bucs following training camp in 2020, but there were discussions about a return.

“I thought that I was going to have the opportunity to come back, barring some injuries, and then they signed Antonio Brown, so that was out the door. It wasn’t anything formal, just a little bit of talk,” Mitchell said.

In August 2019, Mitchell made five catches for 32 yards in Tampa Bay’s first pre-season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to suffering a torn left Achilles tendon, which ended his year. He was kept around by the team and signed a one-year extension to try and make the 2020 final roster.

Photo courtesy: Barry Reeger

“The Tom Brady question is the number one asked question I get from being on that team. Tom’s a big kid, you’d be shocked, as much as you guys see on the TV and as locked in as he is on game day, he’s the same way at practice, but outside of practice his personality really shines,” Mitchell said.

“Tom expects greatness. Being the greatest of all time, in my opinion, that expectation is there as it was for Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan. Those same attributes shine through for any great player, and when you’re a great player you demand greatness around you.”

Being around Brady provided the chance for Mitchell to learn how he approaches and studies the game. Despite the disappointment of being released, the six-foot-two, 198-pound pass catcher told people the Bucs would win the Super Bowl and it happened. Brady threw three touchdowns in a 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs and was named the game’s MVP.

“I would’ve loved to have been on that Super Bowl team, but seeing that team come together this year, being there in training camp, even potentially almost having the opportunity to come back before they signed Antonio Brown, I was very thankful that I was able to experience those things,” Mitchell said.

“It’s been a blessing from the ups and the downs. I’ve learned to be resilient.”

The Bombers put a recruiting pitch on the free agent target — quarterback Zach Collaros, veteran offensive linemen Patrick Neufeld and Jemarcus Hardrick, defensive end Willie Jefferson, head coach Mike O’Shea, and offensive coordinator Buck Pierce called.

“It really touched me and it made me feel like this is home, and it really felt like home. That’s what went into the decision-making,” Mitchell said.

“It was the culture, everyone raves about the culture, it shows this a place people want to be, and this is a team people want to play for. That stuck out and it sold me, honestly.”

Mitchell had his best CFL season in 2018, playing 11 games and recording 60 catches for 867 yards and three touchdowns. Over three seasons in Edmonton, Mitchell made 97 receptions for 1,418 yards and six touchdowns.

“In 2018 when I was able to actually play, we got a preview of what I believe that I can do. We average that out, I believe I would’ve been number two in the league that year, right behind Duke [Williams] based on averages,” Mitchell said.

“I’ve had the most fun that I’ve had playing this sport in Canada. I thought Winnipeg was the best choice. I thought about Winnipeg before. They were actually a place that I thought I was going to sign before I re-signed in 2016 to Edmonton.”

The Calgary Stampeders and B.C. Lions were pursuing Mitchell, but he felt the Bombers provided the perfect fit for his next career move.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.