Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is defending superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown regarding a recent helmet issue that has Brown threatening to not play.
“I support this guy. I think that’s what needs to be said,” Gruden said, according to ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez. “I don’t know what anybody’s writing or what anybody thinks, but this foot injury wasn’t his fault. This was a total accident. It really wasn’t his fault, and it’s a serious injury. I know that some people are [joking about] it, but it’s really not a laughing matter. The guy is hurt, he didn’t do anything wrong, and the helmet thing is a personal matter to him.”
Brown believes the newer-certified helmets protrude out and inhibit his vision and wants to continue to play with the helmet he has worn for the past 10 years, a Schutt Air Advantage model which the company no longer makes and is no longer certified by the National Operating Committee for Standards and Athletic Equipment.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Brown had a conference call with an independent arbitrator on Friday, though no ruling has been issued, and if Brown wears the helmet in a game, the team could face fines.
“He has a strong feeling about what he’s worn on his head, and we’re supporting him,” Gruden said of Brown. “We understand the league’s position as well, so we’re in a tough spot, and we hope Antonio is here soon because he’s exciting to be around. I’m excited. I’ve got some plays for him. I hope we can start calling them.”
Brown has threatened to retire, despite forcing a trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers and signing a three-year, $50.125 million contract extension with the Raiders.
Brown has been a distraction, and nothing but drama, over the past year, and things have not changed with his trade to Oakland.
Now, despite the support of Gruden publicly, Brown seems to be testing the patience of the team, and Raider fans with what seems to boil down to Brown being a diva.
It’s fair to question if the Raiders would make the same move, trading for Brown, if they knew all that would unfold over the course of only a few months.