Antonio Brown badly wants to play in the NFL again, but the former Tampa Bay Bucs star wide receiver says he'll only have surgery to repair his busted ankle if an NFL team commits to signing him.
AB joined Babcock on the TMZ Sports TV show (airs weeknights on FS1), and dished on everything from a possible reunion with Tom Brady in Tampa, to the status of his injured ankle, and what message he'd send to NFL Front Offices.
33-year-old Brown -- the President of Kanye West's Donda Sports -- sees himself playing in the league, but tells us the idea of reuniting with his once good friend, TB12, and the Bucs org. is almost certainly NOT going to happen.
"I don't think that's a possibility," Brown said. "How things were handled. How I was handled in regards to the injury. [They] just weren't able to use me for my value. My true value."
"But I was grateful for the opportunity and the position that I was in and I made the most out of it."
It's worth noting, we spoke to AB before Bruce Arians stepped down as Bucs head coach.
Antonio is still adamant he never "quit on the job." You'll recall Brown infamously left the field during the Bucs game against the New York Jets ... leading many to believe the star WR was done playing professional football.
"For them [Tampa Bay Bucs] to try to manipulate the narrative or act like I walked away from my job is far from the truth."
Of course, AB says the beef with Arians all goes back to the coach trying to force the All-Pro receiver to play on a badly injured ankle. So, we asked Antonio, who previously said he was getting the ankle operated on, whether he had yet gone under the knife.
"I need to get my ankle fixed, but I just want to make sure I got an obligation or a commitment from a team," Brown told us, adding ... "It's a lot for a guy to go do surgery without an idea of where you gonna work, or who you going to work for."
Despite making 7 Pro Bowls, Antonio says he would not be content if he never played another down in the NFL.
"I'm a player first," AB said. "I couldn't even be in this position without being a football player. So I never want to take that for granted. I would love to continue my career. I got a lot of game left in me."
In fact, Brown says he sees other wide receivers (rightfully) being taken care of with huge contracts (see Davante Adams' new $141-million deal) ... and he can't help but wonder why he hasn't signed a big-money deal.
"I still feel like I can put up big numbers, and I see what these guys are getting paid. I just wonder why my value isn't being upheld as the same."
But, don't take that as shade ... 'cause AB says they deserve it.
"I'm happy for those guys. I'm really grateful for those guys who pioneered the game. They take it further, and made their prices go up. So I'm grateful for those guys to get what they deserve," Antonio says.
"My situation is never about anyone else. It's just all about getting what I deserve because I know what I am and what I stand for, and you can't play with me, the numbers are the numbers."
In closing, Brown sent a message to prospective teams who might be on the fence when it comes to signing him.
"Watch the tape. It's not what the articles they sell. It's what I'm willing to do and what I'm capable of doing. I put my heart on the line, I put my will on the line, I put my skills on the line. I'm the best go in the stadium every week."