NAPA – Antonio Brown walked from the Napa Valley Marriott to the Raiders' training camp field house midway through Tuesday’s practice, with agent Drew Rosenhaus and an associate in tow and “Hard Knocks” cameras on all sides.
He came back into view minutes later, rocking a black No. 84 jersey, and caught the tail end of practice from the sideline. He hadn’t been in Napa for nearly two weeks, getting treatment on feet frostbitten during a cryotherapy incident that still bother him.
Head coach Jon Gruden welcomed him back during a post-practice huddle, and then the team got back to the grind.
“He smiled and waved at everybody, but it wasn’t like a ‘hoo-rah’ moment,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “We’re just happy that he’s back and that we can start working on some stuff.”
He drove to Napa from the airport early Tuesday morning and was at the team hotel before practice. There was some uncertainty about when Brown would come back, but there never was a real doubt Brown eventually would return.
Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said a report that Brown was considering retirement over a prohibited helmet was not accurate.
Brown cares a great deal about wearing the now discontinued Schutt Air Advantage helmet he has worn in some model or another since high school, but he wasn’t going to quit after formally losing his grievance to wear a no-longer-certified helmet that is more than 10 years old.
“I don’t think there was ever any legitimacy to the retirement talk, or him leaving the team,” Rosenhaus said. “It was about getting healthy. The helmet wasn’t a focal point as much as the feet were. He had a major injury. This is not a typical injury for a football team to deal with, so he was off with an expert to get laser (treatment) for frostbite and a burn like that. It wasn’t his intent to leave the team for the period of time that he did. He has always had a good line of communication with the club. Actually the Raiders and the NFL are working closely to get the helmet issue resolved.”
There’s no timetable for Brown to return to practice, but his private foot treatment was completed to the point that he could return to Napa and re-join the team.
“It’s a process. We don’t make excuses,” Brown said. “I’m here today to get things on the up and up. I’m feeling a lot better. It has been a process, through all the adversity, but I’m still here standing so it’s an opportunity for me to do what I desire.”
Brown wants to continue playing football, with proper equipment that he feels comfortable wearing. Brown’s camp has made progress on the helmet front, and he could have a solution soon. It isn’t resolved yet, but Brown was set on rejoining the team. He certainly wasn’t relinquishing the opportunity to earn the nearly $50 million on his three-year Raiders contract, which includes $30 million guarantees and roughly $15 million due in 2019.
“He’s ready to have a fantastic season, and we’ll do what it takes to work with the league and the Raiders and the NFLPA to get it resolved," Rosenhaus said. "All the talk about retirement and everything else, that’s not a consideration right now. He’s committed to the team and the season. Everyone can take solace in that. He will be playing this year, and he’ll be playing for the Raiders."