Editor's note: Watch the full, exclusive interview with general manager Mike Mayock on "Raiders Central," which debuts Thursday night on NBC Sports Bay Area and re-airs throughout the weekend.
ALAMEDA – Superstar receiver Antonio Brown dominated headlines during this Raiders preseason while dealing with frostbitten feet and issues with his helmet.
General manager Mike Mayock was heavily involved with all that, staying informed on Brown’s recovery while he rehabbed away from training camp, all the while trying to get him in a certified helmet permitted by the NFL and NFLPA.
That wasn’t an easy task. Brown was adamant about wearing the outdated and disallowed Schutt AiR Advantage, and filed two grievances attempting to do so this season.
The Raiders supported that effort whenever possible, but Brown missing the final training camp practice over this helmet thing crossed a line.
Mayock issued a direct, sternly worded statement demanding to know if Brown was “all-in or all-out.”
Brown returned to the fold the following day, and he has been engaged in the Raiders preparation for the 2019 regular season. Mayock is happy Brown finally is wearing a certified helmet – he worked an endorsement deal out of the affair – and practicing full time, but wasn’t so sure his ultimatum brought Brown back.
“I think that AB’s going to do, kind of, what AB wants to do, so I’m sure my words had very little to do with anything,” Mayock said on this week's episode of the Raiders Talk podcast, in an interview recorded before Mayock's Wednesday dustup with Brown. “We were at a point right there, where there was a lot of outside drama. I made one simple statement to say this is where we are as an organization, and we move on from here.”
Almost. The Raiders fined Brown roughly $53,000 for missing the aforementioned training camp practice and an Aug. 22 walk-through before a preseason game versus Green Bay in Winnipeg, a private matter than went public Wednesday when Brown posted his fine notification letter on his Instagram stories feed.
The letter wasn’t a threat. They plan to fine Brown for missing work, and said in that letter they’ll do so again if he has other unexcused absences.
Mayock has set a hard line for Brown, and he has at times played the bad cop dealing with the receiver’s off-field drama, while head coach Jon Gruden has been outwardly supportive of the mercurial wideout. Both guys have great regard for a player vital to the team’s success this season. Mayock and Gruden had eyes wide open when they acquired Brown, knowing that he comes with some baggage.
“There’s no doubt what his talent level is,” Mayock said. “We traded a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick for him, and we knew that he had some off-the-field stuff with Pittsburgh. But, at the end of the day, what’s most important is the way he is on the field. I’m not just talking about games. I’m talking about practice. I have never, ever seen a player commit to practice, to becoming better more than him.
"Because of that, he has my respect and coach Gruden’s respect. He is going to help us be a better football team because of his work ethic and his talent. The rest of it, we deal with what we deal with. The bottom line is that we’re committed to what he loves to do, which is playing football. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Wednesday [practice] or a Sunday [game], he’s unbelievable.”