It had seemed that the Raiders were treading lightly with receiver Antonio Brown‘s absence in order to keep him from looking foolish for freezing his feet — a fate possibly even more embarrasing than stepping on a George Foreman grill while it’s cooking your morning bacon. It now seems that the Raiders were tiptoeing around Brown because they simply don’t know how to deal with him.
And, based on the way he exited Pittsburgh, they should not be surprised.
His feet ostensibly have kept him from practicing, but he had passed a physical, exited the non-football injury list, and practiced once. Which means that team doctors believed he was good to go.
It could indeed be, as suggested by Adam Schefter of ESPN, that Brown’s current absence is more about his helmet preference and less about his feet. So if he refuses to show up and practice due to his helmet, what can the Raiders do?
Not much, as a practical matter. And their primary option for forcing him to come back could blow up in their faces.
Brown, if he’s not with the team and refuses to return, could be put on the active/left squad list. By rule, the team’s leverage for getting him to return would be sending a so-called “five-day letter.” If he doesn’t return within five days, the team could then shift Brown to the reserve/left squad list, which would shut him down for the season and shut off any obligation to pay him.
Because the Raiders gave Brown a signing bonus of only $1 million, he wouldn’t have to write a gigantic check back to the team if his failure to show up in response to a five-day latter ends his season. However, he’d lose $14.625 million in fully-guaranteed salary for 2020. Likewise, $14.5 million in full guarantees for 2021 would likely void.
It remains to be seen whether the Raiders will take such an aggressive approach with Brown. However, the detailed tweet stream from Mike Silver of NFL Network regarding the various concerns and complaints about Brown surely came from someone with the Raiders and not from Brown. Given that Raiders G.M. Mike Mayock worked at NFL Network — and in light of his reputation for being a no-nonsense, Belichickian, old-school #footballguy — it’s quite possible that Mayock and/or coach Jon Gruden are close enough to the breaking point to have leaked to one of Mayock’s former colleagues embarrasing details about Brown.
The next question becomes whether Mayock and Gruden decide to go the rest of the way and send a five-day letter.
Either way, Tuesday night’s edition of Hard Knocks could be fascinating. Although Gruden was able to grind most of the Brown stuff onto the cutting room floor for Episode One, this week Gruden may decide to let the world know what they’ve been dealing with.