Terrell Owens believes the NFL is screwing Antonio Brown ... claiming the league is slow-playing its investigation into the WR in order to keep the superstar off the field.
"I think that's probably, maybe a tactic of the NFL to drag it out to where, you know, he can't get on the field this year," Owens said.
AB is being investigated by the NFL for multiple reasons including allegations of sexual assault and claims he sent menacing text messages to a woman who accused him of sexual misconduct.
No team has signed Brown since the Pats cut him back in Sept. -- and it's pretty obvious everyone is staying away until the league concludes its probe.
Owens says he's been spending a lot of time with Brown -- and even visited the WR at his home ... and clearly doesn't believe the allegations against his friend.
T.O. does believe Brown could be handling the situation better publicly -- especially when it comes to his social media -- but tells TMZ Sports he understands why AB is frustrated and acting out.
"I don't condone everything he's doing but I understand where he's coming from," Owens says.
"Man, this guy's a loving father ... I don't agree with everything but I understand where he's coming from."
Of course, Brown went after the Patriots hard after he was cut -- and even made light of Robert Kraft's prostitution case -- probably not the smartest move on his part.
Brown later apologized for some of his social media posts ... but he's still out of a job.
Owens believes he WILL be back in 2020 and expects big things from his pal.