Raiders Rumors: Antonio Brown Returns to Practice Amid Helmet Dispute

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2019

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) during an an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. The Raiders won 33-26. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

The Antonio Brown offseason saga appears to have reached something of a conclusion.

The wide receiver returned to the Oakland Raiders for practice Monday, according to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio.

Brown's return comes after general manager Mike Mayock issued a statement that sounded like an ultimatum on Aug. 18:

"Here's the bottom line. He's upset about the helmet issue. We have supported that, we appreciate that. 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. We got 89 guys busting their tails. We are really excited about where this franchise is going, and we hope AB is going to be a big part of it starting Week 1 against Denver."

The helmet issue in play was the receiver's hope he could wear his old one after the NFL implemented a rule banning that model for safer options. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported an arbitrator ruled against the grievance Brown filed in an effort to wear his old one.

Schefter also reported that Brown told the Raiders he would retire if he couldn't wear his old model.

However, Brown denied that report, per Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News: "I don't know where they got that, who made that up, either. Why would I retire, man? I've got a beautiful career. I'm healthy. I love to play the game... I'm grateful to play the game."

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Brown initially tweeted that he disagreed with the arbitrator's decision but was going to rejoin his teammates, and he did just that before even running some routes prior to Oakland's second preseason game.

Michael Silver of NFL Network first reported on Brown's issue with the new helmets and cited someone with the Raiders who said it was "honestly the most insane thing I have ever heard. I don't know why it's so important to him. It doesn't make any sense."

The receiver also dealt with frostbite that kept him off the field during training camp.

The drama came after off-field concerns helped derail the end of his tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers before Oakland acquired him via trade. He tweeted Ben Roethlisberger has an owner's mentality in February, and Gerry Dulac and Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported he missed the 2018 season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals because he sat out practice following a dispute with the quarterback.

Despite all of the headlines, there is no questioning Brown's talent between the lines.

He made seven Pro Bowls and earned four First-Team All-Pro selections during nine seasons with Pittsburgh. He also led the league in receptions twice, receiving yards twice and touchdown catches once while finishing with more than 1,200 receiving yards in each of his last six seasons with the team.

Oakland is looking to bounce back from a 4-12 record and last place finish in the AFC West, so it was no surprise that it took a chance on one of the NFL's surest bets in terms of production.

It will now be up to Brown to put the drama in the rearview mirror and work on fulfilling expectations for the Raiders in 2019.