Professional athletes often simply require a change of scenery when things have not been going their way on or off the field.
Whether the problem is in their play or their attitude, a new place to call home and new teammates to go to battle with on a daily basis can prove to be the much-needed remedy for a superstar.
Unfortunately for the Oakland Raiders, this does not seem to be the case for wide receiver Antonio Brown. The former Steelers standout made it clear at the conclusion of the 2018 season that he wanted out of Pittsburgh. He was unhappy with his contract and his role within the offense.
Despite Brown’s place among the game’s best receivers, I was surprised that any team wanted to touch him. Brown’s bitter end in Pittsburgh was surrounded by controversies relating to his relationship with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his overall attitude on and off the field.
The emergence of young Steelers receiver Juju Smith-Schuster likely had something to do with it, as well. Smith-Schuster quickly became a fan favorite and an extremely reliable option for Roethlisberger while Brown was inevitably double-covered.
I have seen plenty of players lose their cool for a variety of reasons down the stretch of a frustrating season. As for receivers specifically, this sort of controversy is almost par for the course.
It is one thing when a superstar reacts to poor play around him and calls out his teammates when the wins just won’t come. This may be a highly questionable move from a sportsmanship standpoint, but it is understandable nonetheless.
However, I never got this sense from Antonio Brown. His issues always seemed to be completely personal and unrelated to the success of his team. It was always either a money thing or the fact that he felt like he was not receiving enough targets from Roethlisberger.
This feeling was solidified last week. On Friday, Brown was nowhere to be found by anyone inside the Raiders organization. He was absent from the field as a result of a foot injury, but he had gone completely radio silence for a number of hours.
Luckily for Oakland, Brown was completely fine. Unluckily, you could not have thought up a more absurd reason for the absence if you tried.
Brown’s absence from practice has reportedly had less to do with a foot injury and more to do with his helmet. Brown filed a grievance against the league for not allowing him to continue wearing his personal helmet, which no longer meets the league’s safety requirements.
Brown then took it a step further, threatening to retire if he is not allowed to wear his 12-year-old helmet during practice and games. During Friday’s hearing in Philadelphia, he threatened to hold the league responsible if he is injured while wearing a different helmet moving forward.
He is not the first player to express dismay over the new safety rules. In the past, quarterback Tom Brady has been vocal about his desire to continue using the same helmet he has been using throughout his career. However, you would never see Brady put up the fuss Brown has in recent weeks.
Equipment must be at least 10 years old to pass current NFL safety regulations.
Regardless of where you stand on the helmet issue, I find it bizarre that Brown continues to let petty details overshadow his talent and potential future in the league moving forward. He was obviously bluffing and will not retire (the Raiders would not have to pay him if he did), but the fact that he mentioned this as an option at all is enough to continually second guess Brown’s motives and whether he is playing for a team or playing for himself.
Brown’s nine career seasons to this point have all come as a member of the Steelers. He has qualified for the NFL Pro Bowl seven times, including each of the last five seasons. 2018 broke a streak of four straight First-Team All-Pro selections for the 31-year-old.