Raiders

Raiders

The Raiders went through a roller-coaster prior to the beginning of last season, and Antonio Brown was the one driving the lead car.

The All-Pro wide receiver highjacked training camp, with everything from frostbitten feet to multiple helmet grievances taking the spotlight off a Raiders team looking to take a massive leap in Year 2 under coach Jon Gruden. Brown's tenure ended in silver and black ended before it ever began, with a training camp blowup with general manager Mike Mayock and a guerilla-style Instagram video serving as the catalyst for his release prior to Week 1. 

The Raiders never discussed Brown much after their Week 1 win over the Denver Broncos. But with all that in the rearview mirror now, defensive end Clelin Ferrell discussed the altercation between Brown and Mayock for the first time Wednesday on ESPN's "First Take."

"I was just kind of thrown off by it," Ferrell said. "Obviously, you see the stuff in the media but when Antonio was in the locker room, he was the chillest dude. I had never really seen that side of either of them, so I was just kind of caught off guard, and was like, 'Woah! What's going on here?' They had a really good relationship. Obviously, the three of them -- Antonio, Mike and coach Gruden -- they always had a good relationship. I was just kind of caught off guard, but grown men gonna be grown men and have disputes sometimes."

 

Brown reportedly called Mayock "a cracker" and threatened to punch him. The star receiver was released and signed with the New England Patriots, but his stay in Foxboro lasted just under two weeks, as Brown was released after sending threatening messages to a woman who accused him of making unwanted sexual advances towards her in a story for Sports Illustrated.

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The Raiders entered training camp with Brown, Tyrell Williams, rookie Hunter Renfrow, tight end Darren Waller and veteran J.J. Nelson looking to give quarterback Derek Carr the most dynamic supporting cast he's ever had. Brown's abrupt exit changed all of that, and the Raiders' offense eventually suffered from the lack of a true No. 1 receiver.

The Silver and Black got by on guts, grit and an "us against the world" mentality through the first 11 weeks, hitting mid-November at 6-4 and in the playoff hunt. But their holes and injuries were too much to overcome and they limped to a 7-9 finish.

Ferrell knows that if Brown hadn't gone nuclear, things could have different. But he hopes his former teammate can get through the rough patch he's going through.

"When you feel like you got Antonio Brown at his best, the sky would have been the limit for us offensively," Ferrell said. "Just been a guy who is top five in receiving yards and touchdowns every single year. Would have did his thing. When all the different stuff happened with everything going on, that was tough on us. As a team, we just want to be quiet.

"Especially with 'Hard Knocks,' there was already so much attention and to have all this other stuff added in, it was kind of tough on us. But I feel like at the end of the day, we just want the best for him because he did go through a lot, so no matter the disarray or dysfunction he has caused, you just want to see him get back to who he was."

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The Raiders left Brown in the dust and are forging ahead without him as the franchise heads to Las Vegas.

They still have a massive hole at wide receiver, one they likely will address in the 2020 NFL Draft. Cornerback and defensive line also are big needs.

The Silver and Black also hope Ferrell can take a leap in Year 2. The No. 4 overall pick struggled at times during his rookie season, but a light bulb came on in the second half. If he can harness and build off a strong second half, the Raiders should be able to improve on last season's success.