Antonio Brown was a distraction in Pittsburgh. In his short time with the Raiders, he’s already transitioned from distraction to disaster.
There’s no argument that the Steelers decision to trade Antonio Brown was due, in part, to his irrational behavior on and off the field. The enigmatic wide receiver’s recent behavior in Oakland makes it clear that Pittsburgh dealt Brown at the right time.
Brown has been in and out of workouts with his new team since preseason began. Initially, the belief was his absences were due to foot injuries sustained when he chose to enter a cryotheraphy chamber without the proper footwear. That was certainly a dumb decision on Brown’s part, but seemed to be a relatively innocent mistake by the veteran wideout.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, recent reports detailing Brown’s behavior are much more concerning. Many of his teammates believe that Brown has gone M.I.A. from training camp due to issues about the new helmet he’s required to wear. Last season, Brown was one of the NFL players who used an outdated helmet due to a one-year grace period allowed by the NFL. The helmet Brown has used previously during his career has been deemed unsafe by the league.
NFL Network’s Mike Silver now reports that Brown has gotten into several verbal altercations with team personnel about their insistence he switch to a league-approved helmet. The organization runs the risk of being fined if they permit a player to use a helmet that isn’t up to the NFL’s safety standards. Brown has even gone so far as to attempt to paint his own outdated helmet in hopes of fooling team officials during training camp. Sadly for Brown, he couldn’t get the Raiders’ iconic silver and black color scheme quite right.
Brown’s refusal to accept a policy designed to ensure his safety on the field are the acts of a player who seems to be losing his grip with the reality of the league. He’s never been a player content to blend into the background, but his recent actions are going far beyond immature pranks designed to garner attention. Instead, Brown is attempting to jeopardize his own health in an effort to use a helmet he is more comfortable with. Either that, or he could quit football altogether, with ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting that Brown has threatened retirement if he cannot wear his preferred helmet.
The Raiders should be very alarmed with their star wideout’s behavior. If he’s willing to try to paint his own helmet to fool team officials, it’s fair to say the organization can’t trust him. That’s a damning statement about a player who is supposed to be the focal point of Oakland’s offense moving forward.
The continued presence of Hard Knocks cameras at the team’s training camp is only going to make this issue grow larger in the media. At various points in camp, Brown’s teammates and coaches have admittedly had no idea where their star player is. It will be very difficult for the organization to hide that from HBO’s all-seeing camera crew.
The biggest question Raiders officials need to ask themselves is whether or not they can count on Brown moving forward. They gave up a healthy amount of draft capital to acquire him. If he’s already damaged beyond repair, it’s a trade that could haunt Mike Mayock and his front office for years to come.
Brown has the potential to be a great player for the Raiders, but he could also torpedo Jon Gruden’s team before the regular season even begins. Make no mistake, Oakland’s season is already hanging in the balance due to Brown’s reckless behavior.