There are probably a few Steelers fans out there who would give a side eye to the idea that Antonio Brown would hold others accountable for anything. They watched as he sat out the season finale and then put on a two month display of erratic behavior including a crazy multicolor hairdo, bleaching his mustache blonde, and recording several videos of himself demanding guaranteed money; most notably the infamous ‘Mr Big Chest’ video.
There was no sign of that character at the Raiders’ Alameda facility Wednesday as the team announced him. They had agreed to terms on a trade to acquire the disgruntled receiver from the Steelers in exchange for a third and fifth round pick in April’s draft.
Brown took to the stage bookended by Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock with his family as well as his personal trainer and chef in the audience. His hair was cut and his mustache was back to its original color. And he was all smiles.
So, too, were his new head coach and general manager to each side of him. Both of whom had the unique opportunity as former longtime television analysts to see the way Brown carries himself when he’s working on his craft. That, to them, wipes away anything he did or said the past couple months as he was trying to force a trade.
“I can tell you over the years I’ve watched him practice at least 10 to 15 times in my duties as a broadcaster,” Mayock said of the first prize acquisition of his tenure as Raiders GM. “In Latrobe Pennsylvania, in the heat, I watched this guy practice. He’s as good a practice football player and works as hard as any football player I’ve ever seen in my life. And when we came here Jon and I talked about finding passionate football players that love the game. That practice hard and play hard and all I’m going to tell you is Raider Nation, we got a little better today and It’s all because of the way this guy plays football; Antonio Brown.”
Mayock spoke several times of what Antonio Brown brings to the team. Gruden spoke of Brown being the best receiver in football. Mayock seems to be just as interested in Brown for what he brings off the field as on it. Not something you would expect considering the current perception of his personality.
“I think the moment Antonio walks in our building we get better on offense,” said Mayock. “I think our quarterback gets better, I think our offensive line gets better, I think the entire football team gets better and I’m talking about on Sundays and I’m talking about having an Alpha male in the locker room seven days a week. That’s what I believe, ok?”
It seems pretty clear Brown is taking the whole ‘Alpha male’ idea very seriously. When asked what he brings to the team, the first word he used was “Accountability.”
“My plan is to get around here. Get in the room. Start holding guys accountable. Let them know there’s a certain type of standard here now that we have to uphold,” said Brown. “Receivers, we need the accountability system. Drops, lates, fines, missed routes, missed sights, we’re going to hold each other accountable. If you don’t fall in that accountability, you get fined. So when Derek Carr walks in the room and sees all of his receivers, this guy owes this, this guy owes this, so everyone has that accountability factor. For everyone held accountable we have to be at a certain standard. I’m just here to set certain standards, hold guys accountable. Just uplift the tradition of it’s unacceptable to accept not our best. That’s kind of my attitude. Still shaping the team. I can’t do it all in one day. This is a first start to kick off me being here and us doing some positive things moving forward.”
Brown being the accountability enforcer will probably raise a few eyebrows and be met with a serious skepticism by others.
Then again, so long as you can give Brown a pass for the spectacle he made of himself in order to force his way out of Pittsburgh, there may be room for benefit of the doubt.
Brown is in his 30s now. He’s got a complete family with three kids, including a toddler. And he takes his work very seriously. The Raiders want his work ethic to spread to his new teammates.
So far, he’s already been bonding with his quarterback, he apparently hit it off pretty well at the Pro Bowl a couple years back, because when they met up to work out on Tuesday, they talked about how crazy it was that they were getting to team up and how excited he was for it to finally happen.
The way he talks about Carr sounds a lot like he’s taking a shot at his former quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.
“It’s just refreshing,” Brown said of what excites him about working with Carr. “I think he’s hungry for success, hungry for turning the organization around, hungry to get on the winning side of things, and I’m just hungry for the same thing. So, I think we stand for the same causes; God fearing men, family first type people, and we just want to be the best at our craft, putting in the work and the meetings on the field. I think he’s like a sponge, just trying to learn everything from these guys to my left (Mayock) and my right (Gruden) to be able to help the team be successful.”
This is not just the honeymoon faze, this is the wedding night. Everything is all love and starry eyes. And it should be. Brown is out of his mind excited about getting out of his situation in Pittsburgh and joining the Raiders while Mayock, Gruden, and Carr are giddy that they have arguably the best receiver in football.
Being as dominant as Antonio Brown has been in his career and putting up the numbers he has is no accident. He isn’t just a great athlete who has cruised on his gifts, he had to work hard to earn what he has. In that regard, believing he can lift the entire offense to new standards isn’t just a hope, it’s an expectation.