The blonde mustache was gone.
But his trademark smile was in full force on Wednesday when the Oakland Raiders officially introduced wide receiver Antonio Brown as the crown jewel of their offseason acquisitions.
Brown introduced with Lombardi trophies
A beaming Brown sat between head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock in front of a backdrop of the franchise’s three Super Bowl trophies, a less-than-subtle suggestion of the expectations that come with the arrival of the team’s new All-Pro talent.
Gruden was practically giddy when talking about Brown as the team performed a victory lap over the deal that brought him from the Pittsburgh Steelers, a stark contrast to the much-criticized ouster of Khalil Mack last offseason.
Gruden: Brown can ‘sell popcorn’
“You have a great imagination as a football coach when you coach a man like this,” Gruden said. “He can play split end. He can play flanker. He can play in the slot. He can return punts and sell popcorn at halftime. We’re excited about this guy.”
— NFL (@NFL) March 13, 2019
Gruden: Players want to play with Brown
Gruden went on to reiterate his oft-cited mantra that rebuilding the Raiders in his vision will attract talent and that Brown is a step in that direction.
“When we signed Antonio Brown, you would be shocked at how many other players have wanted to come along with him,” Gruden said.
Gruden said in November that “players are dying to come here.” But like on Wednesday, he declined then to cite his sources on the influx of talent lining up to wear silver and black.
How Brown got to Oakland
Mayock told reporters that the asking price for Brown was initially too high for the Raiders to consider. But when the reported deal to send Brown from Pittsburgh to the Buffalo Bills fell through last week, the Raiders jumped back into negotiations.
“We weren’t even in on the process until Friday,” Mayock said. “The bottom line is, I think Pittsburgh wanted a certain pick. We weren’t going to be able to get there. When that deal fell through with Buffalo, we got involved.”
The Raiders acquired Brown for a third- and fifth-round, a bargain for a receiver considered by some to be the best in the game.
While Brown is not the piece to push the Raiders into the realm of contention, his addition is undeniably a step in the right direction. And Oakland got him at a discount.
Steelers: Trade was in team’s ‘best interest’
As the Raiders were introducing Brown, the Steelers acknowledged the deal from their end in a Twitter statement from general manager Kevin Colbert describing the move as “in the best interest of the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
Statement from GM Kevin Colbert on Antonio Brown: pic.twitter.com/MxPxjXDucV
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 13, 2019
Brown sets sights on Jerry Rice
As for what Brown had to say? Not surprisingly, he talked about individual goals that include encroaching on some of the NFL’s least attainable records.
“My goal really is to catch Jerry Rice,” Brown said. “Playing with a guy like coach Gruden. Obviously he knows what it takes to keep me up right and fresh, keep me out there for a long time.”
As for the disappearance of that blond mustache?
“I'm trying to make a professional impression. Keep it low-key."
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