Ezekiel Elliott would love to be on the practice field with the Dallas Cowboys, but he’s willingly sitting on the sidelines holding out for a better contract.
Andrew Luck would give anything to be leading the Indianapolis Colts in training camp, but he’s out with a calf injury.
Antonio Brown is reportedly holding out from the Oakland Raiders because he can’t have the helmet he wants.
Go ahead and pinch yourself. This is real life.
It’s as real as it gets now for the Raiders, who traded their third and fifth-round draft picks to acquire the disgruntled receiver from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After tying the knot back in March, they’ve already reached the post-honeymoon stage of the marriage, when the makeup comes off and the sweet nothings being whispered come to a sudden halt.
Even worse for the Raiders, they haven’t even had an opportunity to enjoy the talent before dealing with the headache. They got Tony Tornado before Tony Toe-Tap.
ESPN Insider Adam Schefter reported on Friday Brown had informed the Raiders he intends on hanging up the cleats if he isn’t allowed to wear his old helmet.
The NFL demands players only wear helmets certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE), which works year-round innovating new updates to equipment in an attempt to keep players safer on the field.
Grandfather helmets, which are older than 10 years, are ineligible to be worn.
So unless Brown is somehow chosen to be an exception to the rule in a league with well over a thousand players, he simply plans on picking up his outdated helmet and going home, leaving the Raiders with the tab and a massive void at the top of their receiving depth chart.
Two moves will forever haunt the Raiders since Jon Gruden’s return to football: Trading away Khalil Mack and acquiring Antonio Brown.
The latter might sting the most since it was somewhat unexpected. Granted, the Raiders knew exactly what they were getting into when exchanging their “I dos” at the alter with Brown. However, there is no way they could have anticipated something as trivial as a helmet change potentially forcing him into retirement.
Players were informed in 2018 that it would be the last season they’d be allowed to wear their old helmets. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers were counted among the players still using the vintage styles, but both are expected to conform to the new rule in the 2019 season.
According to Peter King, during an appearance on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” Rodgers has already been seen wearing an updated helmet.
Somewhere out there, deep in the heart of Pittsburgh, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger must be smiling.
Most assumed trading away a four-time First-Team All-Pro and future Hall of Fame player like Brown for a pair of mid-round picks was a highway robbery, when it was truly a fire sale for the organization to rid itself of a personality that could no longer be tolerated.
Put a checkmark in the win column for the Steelers.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, there’s more than the helmet issue at stake. Brown has also reportedly been showing up late for team meetings, and even when he’s present, he’s typically more preoccupied with his phone and Instagram account.
There is no Roethlisberger and Tomlin for Brown to point the finger at in this case—no claims of favoritism within an organization that went out of its way to sign him.
The city of Oakland was supposed to offer greener pastures for him to finally fall in line and let his talent command the spotlight more than his off-field antics. All it did was put 2,568 miles of distance between the Steelers and their perpetual problem.
Oops, former problem.
Gruden and Raiders general manager Mike Mayok stood at the Russian roulette table and got burned in the trade for Brown.
Even if he does get over the helmet rule, there are no certainties the Raiders won’t have to deal with future blow-ups if the team is losing and things aren’t going his way. It’s a precipitous skid off a career-threatening cliff.
Brown’s career has unraveled before the erosion of his talent—a topsy-turvy way of ending a legendary career, while punishing a Raiders team that knew better and rolled the dice anyway.