Despite all of the mischief, the frostbitten feet and helmet havoc, the no-shows and occasional desertions, even a heated confrontation with his own general manager, Antonio Brown is surprisingly still a member of the Oakland Raiders.
On Friday, Raiders coach Jon Gruden said Brown will be in the lineup when the team opens the season Monday night against the Denver Broncos in Oakland.
“That’s the plan,” said Gruden “Antonio is back today,” Gruden said. “We’re really excited about that. Ready to move on. He’s had a lot of, obviously, time to think about things. We’re happy to have him back and I know Raider Nation is excited about that, too.”
On Thursday, sources indicated the Raiders were on the verge of suspending Brown, and looking into ways to annul the $30 million guaranteed money in his contract, after a clash with Mike Mayock, the team’s GM.
By Friday, the situation had calmed, helped by an apology Brown issued to his teammates at a team meeting in the morning. Brown was standing with team captains as he spoke and the team reportedly accepted him back into the family after he was done.
In comments to ESPN’s Dianna Russini, Brown expressed happiness about returning to the team.
“I’m excited to be here today,” said Brown. “I want to apologize to my teammates, the organization. Enough talk, man. …ready for all the fans.”
Earlier this week, the Raiders informed Brown by letter he would be fined for missing practices and mandatory workouts during his convalescence and dispute with the league over which helmet he could wear.
In response, Brown posted the letter on his Instagram account with inflammatory comments about how he felt about everything.
On Wednesday, Brown, upset by the fines, approached Mayock during practice. And that’s when the argument started that resulted in the team’s original stance about Brown’s status.
A Raiders source, confirming information from another league source, told ESPN that Brown called Mayock a “cracker” and used a series of profanities to disparage the executive. Brown denied using the racial slur, that his discussion with Mayock was “man-to-man” and that things had been blown out of proportion.
“[Mayock] was like, ‘I’m cool, I understand your displeasure,'” the source said. “[Mayock] sort of just like … just walked away because he saw it escalate.”
“Nobody works as hard (as Brown). Nobody loves the game as much, but [it] seems like there is something that is distracting him from his love that [he] can’t control.”
Drew Rosenhaus, Brown’s agent, told ESPN’s Get Up! he continues to hope there will be a long-lasting solution.
“Right now I think his relationship with Coach Gruden is good, very good,” Rosenhaus said Friday. “I’m not going to get into his relationship with Mike Mayock, but I will say that we’re hopeful that that will be a good one, as well. It has been in the past; it can be in the future.”
“Listen, the NFL is a workplace. And in workplace environments, not everything is perfect. Antonio is a new player on this football team and we’re trying to make it a very good relationship across the board. But what is very common in a new relationship is you try to get things in a good place. And it takes time.”
At this point, there is no information about whether the Raiders have also decided to retract the fines.
What’s important to remember is Mayock was actually hired by Gruden and that it was Gruden who would likely have made the decision to suspend or release Brown. Since Gruden views Brown so important to the future of his team, its unlikely he would have approved either disciplinary action.
So yet another person in Brown’s life has served as his enabler. The Raiders have allowed Brown to cross a very important line, essentially making it impossible to discipline any other player who might cross Mayock. They deserve whatever might come next.