Everywhere Antonio Brown goes, drama follows. Some of it by his own making, and some of it exaggerated by the media. When you’re arguably the best receiver football and have a larger than life personality which you express on social media as often as Brown does, the kind of coverage you get is somewhat understandable.
With his very vocal exit from Pittsburgh this offseason, along with dying his mustache blonde and putting out multiple videos demanding he be paid what he’s worth, he became quite a punching bag, especially from Pittsburgh media.
So, when Brown was placed on NFI to begin camp, he wasn’t treated like any other player who had an injury. He was treated like ‘here we go, it’s AB being AB’ and that continued with every detail that was revealed about his injury. While most players would receive sympathy for suffering injuries to his feet, somehow Brown was fair game to be laughed at and ridiculed for it.
In fairness to some, it was a bizarre injury. Frostbite? On his feet? From a cryogenic chamber? Wut?
Then while we’re all waiting each day to see if and when he will return to the field, it’s revealed that he has a grievance with the NFL about his helmet. That turned the talk up a few notches and it was already pretty high.
This new issue was lumped in with the foot issue as the cause for his absence from camp, with some reports even suggesting he was threatening to retire if he didn’t get to wear his old Schutt Air Advantage helmet.
Gruden didn’t buy into the talk of Brown’s supposed retirement and his agent Drew Rosenhaus said flat out that those reports had “no legitimacy” and that the seriousness of his grievance was way overblown.
“It was just getting healthy. The helmet wasn’t a focal point as much as the feet were,” said Rosenhaus. “I mean he had a major injury. And this is not a typical injury for a football team to deal with so he was off seeing an expert to get lasers. It’s different treatment for frostbite and a burn like that. It wasn’t his intent to leave the team for the time that he did, he’s always had a good line of communication with the club and the Raiders and the NFL are actually working very closely with us right now to get the helmet resolved.”
Neither Rosenhaus nor Brown are saying exactly how the injury occurred because they could pursue legal action against the cryogenic therapy company where the injury was suffered.
Brown is not ready to practice yet, but he showed up late into practice Tuesday just to clear the air a little bit.
“I’m extremely grateful to be here,” said Brown. “Just dealing with a lot of adversity. I’m excited to be back and see my teammates and get in the groove of things shortly.”
That’s as close to a timeline as Brown would give as to when he will return to practice, adding that he feels “A lot better. Working towards 100%. It’s been a process with the feet. Any time you got a lot of blisters and it’s hard to change direction and cut and run and do what I do naturally, but I‘m going to start from the good foot, I’m been away getting a lot of work, so I’m excited to just move forward.”
Among the reports out there with regard to Brown was that he had not been in contact with the team. Gruden didn’t deny this when I asked him about it after the game Saturday, and he has long said he didn’t know what the details or severity of Brown’s injury was. Rosenhaus is saying they had constant contact with the team and Gruden is saying he knew all along where Brown was and what was going on with him.
“We’ve had a pretty good understanding of the foot injury,” said Gruden. “We know where he’s been, we know what he’s been through, we’re thrilled to have him back and obviously we think he’s a great player and we’re anxious to get the men together and get rolling.”
The fans will obviously want to believe everything that was said today that everything has been fine and all the media reports were fake news, but there was plenty of truth in those reports. Even if some of them may have veered into hyperbole bordering on misinformation.
The helmet thing was very likely overblown. As frustrated as Brown may have been, there’s no way he was going to retire over this. He may have tried to sneak his old helmet onto the field, but whatever. The timing of the appeal hearing was a coincidence with regard to the mystery of his prolonged absence.
“Hopefully he’ll be back on the field soon, but the injury was the reason that he was away from the team, one. Two, the helmet is something we’ve been working on for months,” said Rosenhaus. “And we’ve been working with the NFL and working with the Raiders to figure out a solution.”
They think they’ve found that solution. Brown can use a bit of a loophole by obtaining a Schutt Air Advantage helmet that has been manufactured in the last ten years. According to Rosenhaus, they’ve found several.
“We’ve located helmets that have been manufactured within the last ten years so that eliminates the ten year rule. Now we have to get those reconditioned and then we have to get them certified by NOCSAE and then the NFL has to approve it. So, it’s all reasonable.”
The NFL says eliminating the use of his old helmet is a safety issue. Rosenhaus and Brown say NOT using it is a safety issue. It’s about the visibility the old helmet provides. Not for catching the ball, but for catching the defender bearing down on him.
“He’s comfortable with this helmet, he can see people trying to hit him, take his head off, knock him out, knock him out of the game,” said Rosenhaus. “It’s a very physical game, especially for a superstar like Antonio and having the proper helmet not only to protect you physically, but to also be able to use it visually was important to him. That’s the only thing he’s played in.”
The most important thing about all of this is it sounds like it will all be resolved soon. Gruden finally said with confidence that Brown will be ready for the season from his foot injury – something he was unwilling to say before – and AB is resolving his helmet grievance as well.
All’s well that ends well and it sounds like this drama will be winding down shortly and everyone can get back to focusing on preparing for the upcoming season.