Antonio Brown expected to play in Raiders opener
ALAMEDA, Calif. — Star receiver Antonio Brown returned to the Oakland Raiders on Friday after a one-day absence and is set to play the season opener after apologizing following a run-in with general manager Mike Mayock that had put him in jeopardy of being suspended.
“I’m excited to be out here today,” Brown said in a brief statement after practice. “I want to apologize to my teammates, the organization. Enough talk now. I’m excited to be out here with my teammates and grateful for all the fans, and I’m excited to be a part of the Raiders and see you guys soon.”
Brown addressed the team earlier in a meeting, a day after being sent home from the facility after a confrontation Wednesday at practice with Mayock. Brown had posted a letter earlier Wednesday from Mayock detailing nearly $54,000 in fines for missing a practice and walkthrough.
“We had a team meeting where Antonio addressed the team,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “We were up there with him, a couple of captains. We communicated back and forth when that was done. We were all excited to move forward.”
ESPN reported the Raiders were planning to suspend Brown over the incident. Teams have the right under the collective bargaining agreement to suspend players up to four games for conduct detrimental to the team. A suspension also would void the more than $29 million in guarantees over the next two seasons contained in Brown’s contract with the Raiders.
Coach Jon Gruden said the plan is for Brown to play Monday night at home against Denver.
“Antonio is back today,” Gruden said. “We’re really excited about that and ready to move on. He’s had a lot of, obviously, time to think about things and we’re happy to have him back and I know Raider Nation is excited about that, too.”
The Raiders have been counting heavily on Brown to spark an offense that lacked playmakers a year ago. Brown had 686 catches and 9,145 yards receiving the past six seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the best marks ever for a receiver in a six-year span.
Even though he missed extensive time in training camp and practice Thursday, the Raiders still are envisioning Brown having a major role in the opener against the Broncos.
“I planned on having him all along, we had as an offensive staff,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “A little bit of a glitch the other day, but that’s been cleared up. So nothing’s really changed.”
This was just the latest development in a dramatic first season in Oakland for Brown, who has yet to step on the field for a game with his new team.
The Raiders acquired Brown after he wore out his welcome in Pittsburgh. Oakland gave up only a third- and fifth-round pick for the four-time All-Pro receiver and gave him a hefty raise with a new three-year contract worth $50.125 million.
But Brown was unable to practice at the start of training camp after getting frost bite on his feet during a cryotherapy accident in France.
Brown was activated July 28 and took part in one walkthrough and part of one practice before leaving the team to get treatment for his feet and to fight the NFL and the NFLPA over his helmet.
He lost two grievances with the league in his attempt to use an old helmet now banned for safety reasons. He skipped practice Aug. 18, prompting Mayock to issue an ultimatum for Brown to be “all in or all out” and to hand him a $40,000 fine.
Brown returned to the team the next day but then missed a mandatory walkthrough before an exhibition game Aug. 22 in Winnipeg, leading to a second fine of $13,950.
Brown publicized those fines on his Instagram account this week. Brown also wrote on the account: “WHEN YOUR OWN TEAM WANT TO HATE BUT THERE’S NO STOPPING ME NOW DEVIL IS A LIE. EVERYONE GOT TO PAY THIS YEAR SO WE CLEAR.”