Jon Gruden, Raiders played Antonio Brown helmet situation perfectly


Antonio Brown formally lost his grievance to wear an outdated helmet on Monday and didn’t retire over it.

What an absolute shock.

A Hall-of-Fame talent still at the peak of his powers decided to collect roughly $30 million guaranteed from the Raiders, and more likely $50 million over the life of a three-year contract.

Can’t believe it.

The Raiders' superstar receiver fought hard for something he wanted but moved right along after he didn’t get it, exactly as his employer anticipated (and this publication and others reported on Friday).

Get right out of town.

Monday’s news, of the grievance result and Brown’s reaction to it, brought a logical conclusion to this odd story.

The details leading up to this moment, however, as chronicled in great detail by NFL Network’s Mike Silver, caused an understandable stir on Friday.

Brown’s unpredictable nature, and an ESPN report that he threatened retirement over the helmet issue, heightened the attention surrounding Brown’s absence from Raiders camp. All that, combined with an unusual foot issue that has kept him out of practice, might’ve been more distraction than even head coach Jon Gruden thought was coming when he said he expected plenty of drama from No. 84.

But…if Gruden was frustrated by all the reports and the distance Brown reportedly went, per Silver, to continue using the Schutt Air Advantage helmet, he kept that inside.

Gruden played it cool and played it perfectly on Saturday night, offering Brown full support on the helmet issue while absolving him of wrong doing as it relates to his odd foot injury.

"There have been a lot of reports out there. I can't say I agree with all of them, certainly,” Gruden said after the Raiders’ 14-3 preseason victory over the L.A. Rams. “But I support this guy. I think that's what needs to be said. I don't know what anybody's writing or what anybody thinks, but this foot injury wasn't his fault. It was a total accident. It really wasn't his fault, and it's a serious injury. I know some people are smarting at it, but it's really not a laughing matter. The guy is hurt. He's innocent. He didn't do anything wrong.

"And the helmet thing is a personal matter to him, He has a strong feeling about what's he worn on his head, and we're supporting him. We understand the league's position as well, so we're in a tough spot. We hope Antonio is back here soon because he's exciting to be around. I've got some plays for him and I hope I can start calling them."

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Gruden backed his guy, creating a welcome environment for Brown to return and do what he does best. A coach’s job is to maximize his players’ potential. Part of that goal is on-field schematics and development. The other part is psychological, pushing the right buttons to get the best out of a particular player. He did exactly that in this case.

Superstar management can be tricky. Those guys need to feel valued and appreciated, even beyond the respect shown through massive paychecks. Brown's recent past suggests he can be fickle, and showing unconditional support when fans and pundits were shaking their heads was the proper tact. Gruden needs Brown to be his gold-jacket best in 2019 and drive this offense forward. Supporting his guy should help acheive that goal. 

While Gruden said he anticipates drama from Brown, he also expects Brown to work extremely hard in practice and perform on game day. That time is coming, after Brown’s feet heal fully and he can finally get back to work for a coach who had his back. 

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