UPDATE: This gripping saga seems to have finally come to an end, as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports Brown is now practicing with the team while wearing a certified helmet
There’s no denying Antonio Brown is an electrifying football player. But there’s also no getting around the fact his behavior seems to be growing increasingly bizarre.
After a very public feud with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brown landed with an Oakland Raiders franchise happy to give him a fresh start. But in his first training camp with the silver and black, the five-time All-Pro has already been involved in a couple odd situations.
First, Brown entered a cryotherapy chamber without proper footwear and wound up with frostbitten feet, forcing him to miss several practices.
Then there’s the still-ongoing helmet saga that’s kept him sidelined from many team activities.
Prior to the 2018 season, the NFL informed its players that certain helmet models would no longer be allowed due to health and safety concerns. However, players who favored these models were allowed a grace period of one year to find a new, compliant helmet. 32 different players, including Brown and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, took advantage of that fact last season, wearing helmets they knew would soon be banned.
That grace period is now over, but Brown refuses to give up his favored Schutt AiR Advantage helmet, which is now outlawed. It’s the only model he’s worn in his NFL career, but it’s also so old Schutt no longer manufactures it.
Brown, who says newer helmets approved by the NFL are uncomfortable and hinder his vision, has reportedly threatened to quit playing football altogether if he can’t wear his preferred helmet.
Why is this such a big deal for the man who led the NFL in receiving touchdowns last season?
“He wore this helmet in Pee Wee football, high school football, college at Central Michigan, and his entire nine-year career,” Drew Rosenhaus, Brown’s agent, said during an appearance on ESPN.
“The helmet is the most important piece of equipment, and he’s had the same one every single snap he’s played in his football career. It is a major issue for him.”
This Deadspin piece from former NFL wide receiver Nate Jackson sheds light on why players can grow so attached to certain models of helmet.
Brown seemed to find a loophole after going to social media and putting out a call for a Schutt AiR Advantage that was less than 10 years old, as the NFL initially said they’d allow him to wear such a unit. But after he successfully located one, the NFL then tested the helmet and informed him that it did not pass its safety standards, effectively closing the loophole on Brown.
Meanwhile, Brown has been missing practices as he searches for a solution to his helmet woes.
On Sunday, Raiders general manager Mike Mayock seemed at his wit’s end with the debate. Mayock met with the media following the team’s practice.
“You all know that A.B. is not here today. So here’s the bottom line. He’s pretty upset about the helmet issue,” Mayock said. “We have supported that. We appreciate that. But at this point, we’ve pretty much exhausted all avenues of relief. So from our perspective, it’s time for him to be all in or all out. So we’re hoping he’s back soon.”
Brown was reportedly back at the Raiders facility on Monday for team meetings, but it appears he still hasn’t found an approved helmet he’s willing to wear during games.
Hopefully this all gets sorted out before the Raiders host the Broncos during their season-opener on September 9th.
Photo Credit: Tony Gonzales/Raiders.com