OAKLAND – Raiders quarterback Derek Carr took the podium shortly after Monday's 24-16 victory over Denver and was asked about someone who wasn't there.
That was expected, considering Antonio Brown sucked all the air out of the Raiders' summer with various antics. This last week was the worst. He got in an altercation with the GM, apologized for it, then demanded his release and got it Saturday morning. He signed with New England hours later, crushing dreams of just how a Hall-of-Fame-type player could've adjusted the Raiders fortunes.
Carr spent so much time this offseason throwing with Brown at East Bay parks and local colleges, when he'd normally be home with family or working on his own. He invited Brown to his son's birthday in Fresno, and made Brown part of his and the Raiders family.
Then Brown was gone in a flash, before ever playing a meaningful snap. Carr had a right to be angry. All that time building chemistry with someone he would never play with was essentially wasted, with nothing to show for it. Carr let Brown in, and the receiver decided he wanted to be somewhere else.
That harsh, but Carr found peace with an unwelcome chain of events that made Brown a Patriot. He welcomed that first Antonio Brown question, and opportunity to address AB once and never again after that.
He had other teammates to praises after a job well done. He felt no need to sulk over a player no longer here.
Carr chose to take the high road, when talking about a player who worked his way out of town.
"I love AB. He knows that," Carr said. "I spent lots of time with him. I can go on, but he's not here. He's with someone else, and I wish him the best. I hope he goes off, and gets everything he wants. I sent him a text saying that. There's no hurt feelings. There's no anger in me. There wasn't any anger in me when I found out, to he honest with you, despite what people wrote. Some people saw me right after and thought I was mad about that when (PR staffer Evert Geerlings) will tell you we were talking about something totally different. Again, when you don't have all the details and you just write something about me, I don't like that. He's gone. I wish him the best."
Carr certainly played with an edge. He was fired up during an excellent performance 22-of-26 passes for 259 yards, a touchdown and a 121 passer rating.
Antonio leaving didn't fire him up, as he explained over the two minutes, 35 seconds spent detailing his process for dealing with Brown's departure. He and the entire Raiders team are ready to shift focus to those in Oakland, who want to be Raiders.
"I hope we can talk about Darren Waller," Carr said. "Hopefully we can talk about Tyrell Williams being a No. 1 receiver. Hopefully we can talk about how we allowed no sacks against that defense. Hopefully we can talk about our rookies. Vontaze Burfict looked like an All-Pro linebacker. We tried to tell everybody these things all offseason. We weren't just blowing smoke.
"Sorry to take your question and run with it, but we had a good football team even when he wasn't there. We knew that, if we added him, my goodness, that would be crazy because he's so good as a football player. But he's not here. When it happen, it was like ‘Okay.'"
It allowed Carr to exhale.
Concluding the AB drama was somehow unwelcome and satisfying at the same time. After so much time with Brown as the center of outside attention and controversy despite spending so much time away from the team, at least the noise would finally stop.
"It wasn't the same feeling as when Khalil got traded," Carr said. "It was not the same feeling. [With Brown gone], at least the questions are done. At least we have answers. As a friend, it stung seeing him have to go somewhere else, but I wish him the best. I don't even think he has hard feelings towards anybody. He just wanted a different place. I wish him the best, and I hope he gets everything he wants. I wish him and his family the best. Practices were fun. I can tell my kids I threw to him, but we're moving on. We have a good football team and I'm really happy to be on this team, because we're like a family."
This family received some closure with Brown on a different coast and, whether they openly admitted it or not, Monday's win helped them move on and find solace in a normal regular-season routine.