With Antonio Brown still gone from the Oakland Raiders and threatening to sit out indefinitely if he can’t wear his preferred helmet, head coach Jon Gruden admitted on Saturday that the team is in a “tough spot.”
Gruden defended the All-Pro wide receiver from criticism over the foot he injured in a cryotherapy mishap, saying that the injury is serious and not at all Brown’s fault. As Yahoo Sports reported, Gruden said that Brown “didn’t do anything wrong” in the cryogenic therapy chamber session that left him with painful frostbite on his feet after Brown failed to wear proper footwear.
Gruden also opened up about Brown’s reported demand that the league allow him to wear the helmet he has worn in the past, one that is no longer on the list of approved helmets. Gruden said that the helmet decision was a “personal matter” for Brown and that the team is supporting him, but at the same time they understand the league’s position.
“So we’re in a tough spot,” Gruden said. “And we hope Antonio is back here soon because he’s exciting to be around.”
Both of those issues could be intertwined, a report from NFL.com noted. Brown has left the team to seek additional medical opinions on his frostbitten feet, but four sources familiar with Brown’s absence from camp told the outlet that his unhappiness over the helmet issue is the driving force keeping him away from the team’s training camp.
As Yahoo Sports noted, Gruden has a lot invested in being able to get Brown back to the field. The Raiders gave up third and fifth round picks in order to land Brown, then signed a three-year, $50 million contract. He is the cornerstone of the team’s attempt to rapidly rebuild and contend in an increasingly competitive AFC West division.
The threat from Brown to sit out the season if he were not able to wear his preferred helmet appeared to be a serious one. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Twitter that Brown told the Raiders he would not play football again unless he could use his helmet. And after former teammate Le’Veon Bell made good on his own threat to sit out an entire season, many are taking Brown’s threat very seriously.
And now this: Raiders’ WR Antonio Brown has told team officials that, unless he gets to wear his old helmet, he will not play football again, per league sources.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 9, 2019
Jon Gruden expresses full support for Raiders WR Antonio Brown https://t.co/OU2V2rIp7d
— Raiders Wire (@TheRaidersWire) August 11, 2019
As the drama unfolds, many fans are waiting to see how the situation will be addressed on the HBO program Hard Knocks, which this year is giving an inside look into Raiders training camp.