OAKLAND -- After an offseason spent talking about everything but football, the Raiders and their fans were ready to focus on the game Monday when the Silver and Black welcomed the Denver Broncos to the Coliseum for their season opener.
Of course, like a lover recently scorned, Raider Nation was focused on who wouldn't be donning the silver and black for the franchise's likely final season in Oakland -- Antonio Brown.
The Raiders acquired the star receiver in March via trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but after an offseason that included frostbitten feet, a helmet grievance and an altercation with general manager Mike Mayock, Oakland released Brown on Saturday at his request. The four-time All-Pro signed with the New England Patriots a few hours later.
As Raiders fans prepared for their team to open the season without Brown, the anger, disappointment and contempt for No. 84 was clear.
Mike Nevin and his tricked-out Raiders van arrived at the Coliseum parking lot with a photo of Brown in clown makeup posted on the window, feeding the vitriol of those who once envisioned Brown leaping into the Black Hole multiple times each Sunday.
"First I was real supportive of him, to be honest with you," Nevin told NBC Sports Bay Area. "The whole thing. You want to give him the benefit of the doubt. The helmet thing, like he doesn't want to go to training camp, whatever. Then, all of a sudden, you see what Gruden, everyone says about him, they stand behind him, they don't suspend him, and he basically just p---es out. It was chicken and I didn't like it at all."
Brown latching on with the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots also didn't sit well with Nevin.
"It's chicken. It's the only way to look at it. He's just a selfish guy. He's not a team guy," Nevin said. "So if they think that's what they're getting, they're not."
As Raiders fans passed Nevin's van in waves on their way to enter the Coliseum, the clown photo was bombarded with "F--k AB's" and "boos."
"We accepted Antonio into our organization and this fool just turned around and backslided, reneged on all of his contract negotiations so there's nothing else to be said about than this: Antonio Clown, that's how everyone in the Raiders organization feels about him," lifelong Raiders fan Ifederico Burboa said pointing to the photo on Nevin's van. "Just disrespected. That guy's a chump. Be a man and respect your job, your obligations.
"You signed a contract, respect your obligations, don't be such a chump like that. It's sad to see that a man that's been around so long is going to act like a punk like that. You know what we have to say to him ... the finger."
Inside the Coliseum, fans continued to voice their newfound hatred for Brown.
The scorned-lover feeling among Raider Nation mirrored that of someone who recently had broken up with someone who was drop-dead gorgeous, but undeniably insane. That brief feeling of relief after the breakup was replaced with a feeling of sickness that their ex had found the one person -- or team in this case -- that could handle the crazy. The perfect match as it were.
"You have rules, you don't do that," Raiders fan Anthony Gonzales said. "But ... good luck to him. I hope he makes it. The Patriots will probably win the Super Bowl again, but it's too bad because we had high hopes for him as a Raider fan. We were glad that he came to the Raiders."
For Linda Denmark, a lifelong Steelers fan who raised two Raiders fans, Brown's nonsense isn't something new, but she is sounding the alarm.
"The Steelers were never going to trade Antonio Brown to the Patriots," Denmark said. "So I think it's really conspiracy here, you know? He goes to the Raiders and he does all these stupid things that he did -- with the helmet and burned feet, I mean who does that? All of a sudden he wants released, it gets done and Belichick picks him up? No."