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Antonio Brown: 'I don't even have to play football'

His mustache dyed blonde, his hair patched with blue and gold, Antonio Brown spoke for the first time this offseason, continuing the saga that has become what seems like an inevitable exodus from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Chatter via social media created quite a stir beforehand, but in a one-on-one interview with ESPN, Brown delivered provocative sound bytes aplenty. He was calm and cool, sometimes confusing and perhaps most surprisingly stated he didn't need football.

"I don't even have to play football if I don't want. I don't even need the game, I don't need to prove nothing to anyone," Brown said. "If they wanna play, they going to play by my rules. If not, I don't need to play.

"Obviously, I want the game, but I don't need the game, it's a difference."

The sitdown interview encompassed a range of topics, including Brown's youth, proclaiming his overall happiness with life and the reveal that he was once grazed by a gunshot.

Following Brown's absence from the final regular season game of a campaign in which the Steelers failed to make the playoffs, the All-Pro receiver has made no secret that he wants to be traded. Along the way, reports of discontent with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have surfaced.

With that, Brown made it clear that he believes the two should have been closer given their roles in the franchise.

"I would've liked for me and Ben to be cool. I thought we was cool," Brown said. "When I think, I been to his house one time, he's been to my house one time. We don't work out in the offseason. It's like, yo, if we really want to win, you think that's winning? That's not winning, that's not winning culture."

What wasn't all that clear was Brown's take on Roethlisberger's public criticism at times -- something he's done with multiple teammates. When asked if that was the beginning of the rift, Brown said he was OK with criticism, but added if he was indeed Roethlisberger's "guy," things wouldn't have played out in that fashion.

"Criticism really is a part of the job. I answer criticism with achievement," Brown said. "I love Ben. Ben's my quarterback. He's feeding me the ball. He take care of me. I'm not worried about him calling me out. But on a professional level, if I'm your guy, make me know I'm your guy. Don't say I'm your guy and then call me out. That's an issue. ... Don't say I'm your guy and then point a finger; don't say I'm your guy and then don't throw me the ball the whole first quarter."

As for the ill will with Brown and everyone involved, he was clear once again in terms of taking no blame for the downfall of the relationship.

"I don't take any blame," he said. "I just think I took responsibility for my situation. I didn't point a finger, I didn't make anybody feel bad, I didn't throw no stones at anyone."

It was hardly all concentrated on the negative as Brown reminisced about his accomplished career with a grin, looking back fondly on what he's done and how he views playing the game.

"I had a lot of fun. I scored the most touchdowns out of any receiver and I was routing guys up. It's fun, man," he said. "I'm just up for the excitement of the camaraderie of a team. Any level of life you gotta have a team; corporate you gotta have a team, football you gotta have a team, at life you gotta have a team. I'm just all about team camaraderie in regards to committing as a team to doing things special."

No doubt viewed by some in a me-first light, Brown talked often about being part of a team, explaining that the divide with Roethlisberger was because they were not close enough, much like his relationship with the franchise. He slighted the Steelers organization for not going the extra mile to get to know him and his family. And, emphatically stated his future is elsewhere.

"I'm ready to move forward," Brown said.

In speaking about developing a closeness with a franchise, he also got somewhat perplexing again when he said it was also a business, wavering back and forth between what seems to be at the forefront where he's concerned.

"There's nothing really I haven't done. I made the contracts. I made the money. I really made the records. I really led the league in all three categories -- receiving yards, receptions, touchdowns. So, end of the day for me, it's bigger than just the game that we play or ball. It's about the respect of people and camaraderie," Brown said. "I would like to know the guy I work for got my best interest; I would like to know the team got my best interest. But when it comes to business in the NFL and football, it's a business. So in business, some things are not personal. So for me, it's not personal between me and no organization. It's just where I'm at now, you're either helping me build or stopping me."

As dizzying as the Brown-Steelers drama has been, the wide receiver's words were somewhat as well. In the end, Brown made it known that with all he's done in the game, he doesn't need it, but he still very much wants it.

"I love to play the game; the commitment to the game, the being a part of something specialer than yourself," he said. "To be committed with a group of guys to doing something special that's bigger than yourself, that's the ultimate.

"Of course I want to play football, I'm a player, that's who I am, that's what I do."

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