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Antonio Brown won’t play in NFC title game for Tampa thanks to knee injury

Antonio Brown, after being held out of the end zone in his first five games with the Buccaneers, connected with Tom Brady for five scores across four weeks before being shut out against New Orleans.
Antonio Brown, after being held out of the end zone in his first five games with the Buccaneers, connected with Tom Brady for five scores across four weeks before being shut out against New Orleans.Brett Duke/Associated Press

Tom Brady won’t have Antonio Brown to throw to during Sunday’s NFC Championship game at Green Bay.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said Friday that the receiver, who had been day-to-day with a knee injury, will not play against the Packers. Brown was hurt during last week’s divisional playoff victory over the New Orleans Saints. No serious damage was found on a Monday MRI, but Brown hadn’t practiced all week.

“To put him on the plane and fly up there and have [the knee] swell more just doesn’t make any sense. He wasn’t as close as we had hoped, so we’ll get him ready for the next one,” Arians said. “Antonio will be missed, but we’ve got capable people stepping in.”

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Brown joined the Buccaneers for the final eight games of the regular season, all four of his touchdown catches coming in the final three weeks. Eleven catches in the regular-season finale against Atlanta gave him 45 for the year for 483 yards; he added three more in Tampa’s two playoff victories, including another touchdown against Washington.

Brady targeted Brown just six times in the last two weeks, tied with fellow former Patriot Rob Gronkowski for fifth-most on the Buccaneers behind wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, tight end Cameron Brate, and running back Leonard Fournette.

“It obviously sucks for Antonio,” Brady said Friday. “We all wish he could be out there with us, and other guys are going to have to step up and do the job. I’ve got a lot of confidence in the guys that haven’t been out there as much when [Brown’s] been in there.”

The only other name on Tampa’s injury report is standout rookie safety Antoine Winfield, who is questionable with an ankle injury.

Also Friday, Tampa activated nose tackle Vita Vea from the reserve/injured list. The third-year pro, one of the top run-stoppers in the NFL, has been sidelined since early October with a broken ankle.

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