Antonio Brown put on a helmet, answered Raiders' ultimatum; now Oakland needs AB circus to end

Antonio Brown showed up at practice on Tuesday, slipped on his NFL-approved helmet and went to work.

Now, perhaps, he’s ready to bring something to his new Oakland Raiders team … other than the mini-circus of frostbitten feet and helmet protests.

“He’s all in, ready to go,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said.

At least he was on Tuesday. How long does it last?

Well, back in Pittsburgh the Steelers may miss Brown’s sure hands and explosive playmaking, but they won’t miss wondering what’s next.

He’s supposedly “all in” for the Raiders. Yet we haven’t even reached the third preseason game and Oakland has to understand that could mean anything at this point.

“Really happy to have him out here,” Gruden said. “He’s a great player.”

Oakland Raiders' Antonio Brown walks on the field while stretching during NFL football practice in Alameda, Calif., Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Raiders coach Jon Gruden said wideout Antonio Brown practiced Tuesday with the proper helmet. (AP)

That he is. Brown put up historic numbers in Pittsburgh – 686 receptions and 9,145 yards, the most ever over a six-season span. Yet the Steelers dealt him for just a third- and fifth-round pick because, in part, all of the drama that matched the on-field production.

Undeterred, Oakland handed him a three-year deal worth as much as $50.125 million. What it has gotten so far – and yes, again, it’s just the preseason – is little more than good fodder for “Hard Knocks.”

Frostbitten feet from treatment in France that went all wrong meant he couldn’t start training camp. It did make for viral Instagram posts. As his feet were healing, he almost immediately started pouting about the NFL making him wear a new – and safer – helmet.

Until Tuesday, he hadn’t done much other than file grievances.

The Raiders “supported him” in his crusade, whatever that meant. It didn’t take long though for general manager Mike Mayock to declare Brown needed to get over the helmet situation and either be “all in or all out.”

Lots of veteran players are upset they have to switch helmets. Tom Brady has complained. Aaron Rodgers has complained. Jason Witten has complained.

All switched though. The NFL is trying to make the game safer. The helmet is one front in that battle. Every player in the league recognized that, realized that this was something they had to accept and move on.

Everyone except Antonio Brown, at least initially.

He’s still filing grievances to find a version of his preferred Schutt AiR Advantage helmet approved by the NFL, at least for one more season. That’s fine. It’s his right under the rules of the NFL and the NFLPA.

At least he’s done sitting out in protest. If his motion comes through, great. Wear the old helmet. In the meantime, get back on the field and work on meshing with a new quarterback (Derek Carr) and a new offense.

Maybe more important, be the leader that he often is for a new team that wants to trust, in every imaginable way, its high-priced off-season acquisition.

Brown has too much to offer and the Raiders have too many needs to get distracted by a helmet and feet.

"It's not been a distraction to me at all," Gruden told reporters on Tuesday. "I hate to break it to anybody but we've known what the status is regarding his feet. He just showed up with frostbite. I never had a guy show up with frostbite. Fortunately we got that thing under control.

“This grievance thing is no laughing matter,” Gruden continued. “It's something that's really important to him. There's nothing wrong in supporting your players on things they believe in. We also understand the league's position, but I'm confident that he's going to be a heck of a player for us and be ready to roll.”

Gruden says this is all behind him. Maybe Antonio Brown wants the same thing.

It’s certainly time. Preseason football is fairly pointless, but the real stuff is coming and the Raiders need to know they can count on AB to bring more than a soap opera this season.

Tuesday, with chin strap snapped tight, was the first step in proving he can.

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