For now, Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown is “all in.”
Brown, one of the NFL’s most productive and explosive receivers, has mostly been missing in action for Oakland’s training camp in Napa and the first two exhibition games.
First, problems with the soles of his feet (reportedly frozen in cryotherapy treatment) kept him from fully participating. Then, he stayed away while battling with the NFL because he was upset the helmet he’s used for many years is now ruled obsolete (and less safe) by the league.
Brown’s absence prompted Raiders general manager Mike Mayock to make an announcement to the media Sunday that the team needs to know if Brown is “all-in or all-out” as the team prepares for its final two preseason games and breaks training camp in Napa to return to its Bay Area facilities.
On Tuesday, Paul Gutierrez of ESPN reported Brown participated in practice in Alameda, used an NFL-certified helmet and was fully committed.
“He’s all-in and ready to go,” head coach Jon Gruden told reporters. “That’s my understanding. Really happy to have him out here. He’s a great player.”
Brown has filed a second appeal to the NFL to use a helmet he prefers, but Gruden says Brown indicates he’s planning to play and that his fight with the NFL is not a distraction to his team.
“I’m confident that he’s going to be a heck of a player for us and be ready to roll,” said Gruden.
Brown said on the HBO show “Hard Knocks,” which aired its third episode Tuesday night, that he’s eager to get serious and ready for the season.
“More work, less noise,” he said.
Brown also said his feet are healed and he can go all out in practice and in games.
“The feet feeling a lot better,” he said on “Hard Knocks.” “I got brand-new skin (on his soles). Got it all trimmed up. It’s been a journey, man, but I feel a lot better. Working with the NFL, getting the right equipment, I’ve been working on the side. I’ve been going, taking care of the feet. So, I mean, I want to give it to my teammates, so, hopefully, get out there and get to work.”
Though Brown has generated plenty of news the past few weeks – most of it negative – Gruden and the Raiders have shown support for him. As Dan Hanzus of NFL.com noted Wednesday, Gruden has shown he might have the qualities to get the most out of Brown right now.
Wrote Hanzus: “Brown is a handful. There’s no question about that. But Gruden may be the right coach at the right time to keep this from turning into the toxic, season-wrecking situation many assumed was inevitable.”
The Raiders next play the Green Bay Packers Thursday night in Winnipeg, Canada (5 p.m. Bay Area time).