The Raiders think it’s time for Antonio Brown to Schutt or get off the pot. As explained by his agent, Antonio Brown doesn’t agree that the time has come to pick a new helmet and move forward — or to walk away from the game.
“We’ve worked very closely with the Raiders, and we will continue to work very closely with the Raiders,” agent Drew Rosenhaus said Sunday night in an appearance on WSVN-TV. “I’m not sure that we agree that we’ve exhausted all the options, as [Raiders G.M.] Mike Mayock said. But there’s no doubt it’s still an ongoing process. We are trying to work with the team and the league and the union to come up with a solution. We haven’t figured it out yet. To say that AB is upset about the decision to not let him wear his helmet is accurate, but we’re still processing it and figuring it out. I wouldn’t make too much about him not being there today, as much as we’re still trying to come up with a solution that works for everyone.”
From the perspective of the team and the league, the only viable solution seems to be selecting a helmet model from the menu of permissible helmets. So what other options exist that would allow Brown to continue to wear a Schutt AiR Advantage?
At this point, the best (and perhaps only) alternative option would be the filing of a new grievance that challenges both the decision to expedite testing of the Schutt AiR Advantage in order to make that entire helmet model, which previously had not been prohibited by the league, a banned helmet model and the decision to not give Brown a one-year grace period to phase out of his helmet of choice.
The argument would be a simple one. First, the NFL had never banned the Schutt AiR Advantage until Brown found multiple models that could be recertified for use by NOCSAE because they were less than 10 years old. Once Brown identified, and exploited, the obvious loophole emerging from last Monday’s grievance ruling regarding his more-than-10-years-old helmet, the NFL moved quickly to close the loophole by testing, and failing, the Schutt AiR Advantage generally.
Look at it this way: If the specific helmet Brown had worn since entering the NFL in 2010 had been made that year, he’d still be able to wear it this year, because it would be less than 10 years old. The NFL had never flagged, tested, or banned the Schutt AiR Advantage until Brown challenged the league’s position on wearing a helmet that is more than 10 years old. Then, once Brown realized that he could still wear a Schutt AiR Advantage that was less than 10 years old (indeed, last Monday the Raiders told Brown’s camp that the league had said he could), the NFL came up with a way to disqualify the Schutt AiR Advantage generally, and entirely.
Last year, the NFL banned specific helmet models previously worn by players like Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Even though those helmets had been determined to be unfit for further use by NFL players, the NFL gave them a full football season to process that decision, to explore alternatives (as Brady did, regularly embracing a new helmet before reverting to the old one, several times over), and to eventually pick a new helmet after the one-year grace period expired. Brown, whose helmet model of choice wasn’t prohibited by the league until late last week, isn’t getting that same courtesy.
These are the nuances that are being glossed over by those who think that Brown is simply being a baby about the situation. At the end of the day, the Brown grievance — and his seemingly viable strategy for an end run — resulted in the league waking up to the fact that it had never tested the Schutt AiR Advantage for possible placement on the banned helmet model list, rushing to get that testing done, and then refusing to give Brown the same one-year transition period that others got after it was determined that their own preferred helmet models had been banned.
For as flimsy as Brown’s first grievance was, his second grievance — if he pursues it — would be much stronger.