Does Antonio Brown even want to play football anymore?

Dan WetzelColumnist

From the tip of his frostbitten toes to the top of his helmeted head, Antonio Brown has been a complete nightmare for the Oakland Raiders, who now, according to ESPN, are about to suspend their high-priced, high-drama wide receiver before he ever catches a pass for them.

At this point, after this much tumult, it’s fair to ask: Does Antonio Brown even want to play football anymore?

Presumably he does, if only because he just signed a three-year deal worth potentially $50 million – although if he’s suspended for the season opener against Denver, he isn’t likely to make every bonus.

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Yet even with all that money laying out there, he’s done and said almost nothing to suggest he really wants to be on the field as a Raider, who traded a third- and fifth-round draft pick to Pittsburgh last offseason to acquire him.

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The latest was an extreme argument Wednesday between Brown and Raiders general manager Mike Mayock. Per the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the argument did not get physical but “after a screaming match, Brown told Mayock that he would hit him in the face and then punted [a football] and said, ‘Fine me for that.’ ”

"Antonio Brown is not in the building today," Mayock said Thursday at Raiders practice. "He's not going to be practicing. I don't have any more information."

The AB/Mayock argument stemmed from Brown posting on Instagram on Wednesday a letter from Mayock informing Brown that per the rules of the collective-bargaining agreement he was being fined $13,950 for missing a walk-through on Aug. 22 before a Raiders preseason game.

The letter also states he’d been previously fined $40,000 by the team for missing training camp on Aug. 18.

It has been quite a summer for Antonio Brown and the Raiders. (AP)
It has been quite a summer for Antonio Brown and the Raiders. (AP)

On Instagram, Brown wrote: “When your own team want to hate but there’s no stopping me now. Devil is a lie. Everyone got to pay this year, so we clear.”

Needless to say, Mayock was not pleased by that.

Brown does work for the Raiders, after all. Not the other way around. Although maybe not for long.

Of course, the suspension and the fine follow Brown not being able to start camp because his feet were frostbitten from receiving cryotherapy while in France this summer. And then there was the soap opera over his helmet – his old one was phased out by the NFL due to safety concerns and Brown struggled to find a suitable replacement. Most days he couldn’t be a full participant in practice. (He has since signed a helmet deal with Xenith).

That led to Mayock demanding that Brown pledge that he was either “all in or all out” with the Raiders for the season – something signing his contract should have mandated.

Mayock was satisfied with the answer and things looked tranquil, at least from the outside.

Then came the IG post about the letter and the devil and the lies. Then came the punted football. Then came the planned suspension.

Then came … well, something is no doubt coming.

Meanwhile, back in Pittsburgh, there must be cackles of laughter.

There are few, if any, wide receivers in the NFL who can catch balls as well as Antonio Brown. He has posted six consecutive seasons of at least 100 receptions, at least 1,200 yards and at least eight touchdowns (including 15 last year for the Steelers).

Yet at some point the headache outweighs the production. Pittsburgh was eager to be done with him despite everything he did for the Steelers. He was benched in Week 17 last season after skipping practice following an altercation where he threw a football at Ben Roethlisberger, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Mayock and Raiders coach Jon Gruden gladly took that on and now they are dealing with reality.

By posting the fine letter and essentially declaring his boss a “hater”, Brown made it clear his opinion of his new employers.

But why? Is he simply too immature, even at age 30 and “entering” his 10th season in the league, to keep his disputes in-house and avoid running to social media like a seventh grader? Can he control his temper? Does he lack the self-awareness to understand that while he has changed teams, the problems are still there. Does he realize that even his $30 million “guaranteed” isn’t guaranteed?

Or is this just a recurring sign of his overall disinterest in playing football anymore?

So far his commitment to his new team who went out and traded for him, wiped the past clean and rewarded him with a handsome contract has been to invent ways to miss work – self-inflicted injury, dispute with the league office, skipping sessions and team suspension.

The Raiders have been more than fair. They excused the feet and argued he was a victim. They backed his fight with the NFL over the helmet until essentially all grievances were exhausted. They hid his missed sessions and fines from the media – even as “Hard Knocks” had cameras rolling.

Eventually enough is enough, and now he potentially sits. Oakland is trying to pull him back into line.

But does Antonio Brown even want to do this anymore?

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