You have to think the Oakland Raiders knew exactly what they were getting into when they acquired wide receiver Antonio Brown, which makes what follows all the more confusing.
We’re not even into the second episode of “Hard Knocks” and the talented goofball is already proving himself to be a handful for a team hoping to change its culture in year two under coach Jon Gruden.
Brown hasn’t practiced since July 30 – he missed 11 of the team’s first 12 practices – supposedly because of what had been an unspecified foot injury. But now we know what’s been causing the problem.
The injury was caused by extreme frostbite caused by a cryotherapy machine. Apparently, Brown wasn’t wearing the right footgear when he slid himself in the chamber last month in France and as a result burned his feet. He even posted a photo on Instagram last week showing signs of the blistering and peeling.
Gruden told ESPN last week the organization was still collecting information about what happened and would have a comment once that was completed. But it’s pretty clear what Gruden must be thinking: Why would some knucklehead get into one of those machines before completely understanding what could go wrong.
“You know me, it is like waiting for Santa Claus,” said Gruden. “I have been really excited to coach this man. I think he is a great player and he is a great competitor. We need his life in this offense and on this football team. We will just cross our fingers. I will make no speculation whatsoever. He has to get it evaluated. He has to get the information he needs, and when he does, he will be back.”
As if this wasn’t enough, Brown added a little more spice into the pot on Friday.
The NFL has refused to allow him to wear the helmet he’d grown accustomed to during his days with the Pittsburgh Steelers. And because of it, he has told people he will not play a single down until the league relents.
Brown refuses to wear a newer model the league requires. Sources have told ESPN he believes the NFL-issued hat interferes with his field of vision. So he is stomping his feet and throwing a hissy fit like the diva he is.
The issue is so complicated Brown was involved in a two-hour conference call on Friday with an arbitrator assigned to the case. League officials, player representatives and NFLPA representatives were also on the call and a decision is expected to be made early next week.
There is also reason to believe now the reason Brown is not practicing has more to do with the helmet issue than it does with his frostbitten feet. Knowing how Brown has operated during his career, knowing how petulant and self-serving he can be, makes that point of view seem logical.
In case you were wondering, Brown’s preferred head hear is a Schutt Air Advantage model. But the company no longer makes it and the old model is no longer certified to be safe. The NFL says it will not allow a helmet to be used that is not cleared and also says no helmets older than 10 years old will be allowed.
The NFL and its Players Association obviously wants its players to wear updated gear. During the offseason, the league added 11 helmets to their list of approved equipment and eliminated the grace period provided for others that have come up short in testing.
According to the league, 32 players were wearing currently banned helmets at the end of the 2018 season, including the GOAT, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Now the league is saying any player who is wearing an outdated helmet will be subject to disciplinary action.
Seriously, does anyone believe Brown will walk away from his three-year, $50 million deal ($30 million guaranteed)?
The Raiders have tried to play nice by sending Brown a bunch of different helmets, but he has refused all of them. Brown has even tried to sneak onto the practice field with his old hat.
The Athletic says the Raiders are quickly growing tired of Brown’s act. He continues to push every team rule, even by insisting that his children be on the sidelines during practices.
Then again, why should anyone feel sorry for the Raiders. Brown proved to be a major pain-in-the-butt for the Steelers, especially last season when he refused to play in the final regular season with postseason implications.
Brown has bad feet. He wants to wear a bad helmet. And he obviously has a bad attitude. What’s next?