Antonio Brown reportedly has informed Raiders officials he will not play for the team unless he can use his old helmet, which is now prohibiited under NFL rules.
ESPN reported the ultimatum Friday afternoon among a flurry of news about the wide receiver’s ongoing holdout from Oakland’s training camp in Napa, California.
Brown started training camp on the non-football injury list with a “minor injury,” and it was later reported that he got frostbite on his feet from a cryotherapy machine after using it “without the proper footwear.”
Coverage of his absence has focused on that issue, but reports emerging Friday suggested it was Brown’s head, not his feet, at the heart of his holdout.
ESPN reported Brown has filed a grievance with the NFL over changes to its helmet rules, which will prevent him from wearing the helmet model he has used throughout his pro career.
That helmet, made by Schutt and since discontinued, is not certified by the National Operating Committee for Standards and Athletic Equipment due to its age, and NFL rules stipulate only NOCSAE-certified helmets can be used.
Antonio Brown believes the new helmet that the rules mandate he wears protrudes out and interferes with his vision as he tries to catch football. The Raiders have been sending Brown other approved helmets to try out but, at this time, he is not interested in wearing any of them.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 9, 2019
Shortly after that report, NFL Media’s Michael Silver sent a series of tweets addressing Brown’s absence from camp that centered on the helmet issue.
He reported Brown has been vocal in his objections to the policy since OTAs, to the point that at one point Brown had his old helmet repainted in Raiders colors.
“He’s still freaking out about it,” Silver quoted an anonymous Raiders player as saying. “He hasn’t been here for awhile, and no one knows where he’s at.”
Earlier Friday, Pittsburgh NBC affiliate WPXI reported the former Steeler has gone “radio silent” and the Raiders have “zero clue where he is or what the progress of the foot injury is.”
While the team has not specifically addressed Brown’s foot or helmet issues, Raiders coach Jon Gruden expressed frustration with Brown’s absence at the start of training camp.
“I think we’re all disappointed,” Gruden said (per ESPN). “We think he’s disappointed. We’d like to get the party started. We’d like to get him out here. He’s a big part of the team.
“I want the guy out here as soon as possible. I’d like him to never leave and stay in the huddle every play. But life goes on, and you’ve got to continue to work and the other guys got to take advantage of these opportunities, and so far, they have.”
Gruden also said he “expects a lot more drama from No. 84” after Brown arrived to camp in a hot-air balloon.
Brown was traded from the Steelers to Oakland in March. He led the NFL in touchdown receptions last season with 15 and finished with more than 1,200 receiving yards for the sixth consecutive season.
The Raiders open their preseason Saturday against the visiting Rams.