The end was always going to be ugly, and needlessly sad, for Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown has wanted the world to believe he was a victim throughout most of his life in the spotlight.

He may have finally convinced us, in what will likely be his final act on an NFL field.

It was sad to watch a shirtless Brown wave and smile as he strolled through the end zone in the middle of the game against the Jets.

It was like the last walk of a man who is dead and never will be alive again. It left you with the feeling that the story had run its course. Everything that follows will be sad.

I am not excusing Brown. He was blessed with athletic skills and plenty of people willing to help him rewrite his destiny as a result of his poor upbringing in Miami. It was his choice to be childish and defiantly.

The fault is not Brown's alone. The NFL has been involved. Even as they continue to hide from it, the Buccaneers share in this debacle.

Brown had been given the impression that he was bulletproof by the fact that he had turned in a false vaccination card, and then acted as if he had not been warned that he had been signed under a zero-tolerance policy.

The team wouldn't discipline him if Tom Brady wanted him in the huddle.

He could not refuse to play.

After the victory, Bruce Arians said that Brown was no longer with the team.

During his postgame news conference, after he was asked several questions about Brown, he told Fox Sports' Jay Glazer that the receiver had declined to go back on the field. Brown has been dealing with an ankle injury.

So that is it? One week ago, Brown was described as a model citizen, but now he's a player who has to hitch a ride home from New Jersey because of a sideline spat?

It would end this way and the Bucs had to know it. Brown quit on the Steelers when he wasn't getting enough passes. He walked away from $30 million in guaranteed money after arguing with the general manager of the Raiders.

Instead of cutting ties with Brown after the vaccination card scandal, the Bucs acted as if he was just an annoyance, and that he should seek professional help for his obvious problems with authority.

They dumped him a week later.

The Bucs lost twice on the same gamble. They sacrificed a small measure of integrity by not following through on their promises that Brown would have to behave, and they ended up without his talents on the roster heading into the playoffs.

Brown failed to reach the end of the regular season for the third time in four years.

You will not hear me talk bad about A.B. Le'Veon Bell, who played with Brown in Pittsburgh, said that he understands things happen, but he is one of his closest friends. A good person. You know, some bad decisions at times. He is not perfect.

We don't require perfect for professional athletes. Accountability would be nice. Good citizenship and self-awareness would be good. Brown failed miserably in those areas.

He kept getting jobs in the NFL because he could run routes quickly and precisely and catch the football as well as anyone on the planet. The coaches were willing to overlook Brown's faults if his production exceeded his level of aggravation.

Is it the fault of the NFL for not doing more to help a player who had issues? Is it Brown's fault for his continued behavior? Was it the fault of a media machine that made athletes believe they were immune to trouble when they were in high school? Is it the fault of fans who don't demand more virtue from their teams?

You could make any argument you want.

The image of Brown shamelessly playing to the crowd as he walked off the field in the middle of the third quarter will not change. He looked like a man who thought he had won. He thought he had shown the world who was in charge.

The NFL will go on without him.

I think Brown finally understands that.

John can be reached by phone. Follow the person.

It is:

The latest team news and analysis from Joey Knight can be found in the RedZone newsletter.

Don't miss out on the latest with the college sports in Florida. Follow our sports team on social media.