NAPA, Calif. — Antonio Brown returned to Oakland Raiders training camp for the first time in two weeks on Tuesday, with a compromise on his helmet issue seemingly in sight and his frostbitten feet continuing to heal.
The four-time All-Pro receiver came out to the field at 11:05 a.m. PT, about 15 minutes before practice ended.
“I’m extremely grateful to be here,” Brown said. “Been dealing with a lot of adversity. I’m excited to be back, see my teammates, and get in the groove of things.”
Good to have you back, 84. pic.twitter.com/N9u1mHG1P8
— Oakland Raiders (@Raiders) August 13, 2019
Brown and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, acknowledged the helmet issue has been weighing on the player. He accepted Monday’s decision by an independent arbitrator that went against him using his 10-year-old Schutt Air Advantage helmet, but now he’s looking at a possible resolution that can result in him wearing the same model, just more recently produced.
Earlier Tuesday, Brown put out a post on social media asking fans for their help in finding a version of his old helmet that has been manufactured since 2010.
“I’m looking for a Schutt Air Advantage Adult Large Helmet that was manufactured in 2010 or after. In exchange I will trade a signed practice worn @Raiders helmet.”
— AB (@AB84) August 13, 2019
Rosenhaus said they had located some and that it was just a matter of getting one of those reconditioned and re-certified.
“So, it’s all reasonable,” Rosenhaus said. “I mean, it’s all very plausible.
“Understand that this is a guy that’s worn this helmet for nine years. He’s taken a million hits and he’s been healthy and one of the most durable players ever at his position. So you can understand why he’d want to continue to wear that helmet. It’s very important to him. It’s a big part of his safety. … The Schutt Air Advantage is what he’s worn his whole life.”
If Brown can get a model that’s been manufactured since 2010 certified by the National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association (NAERA), it is not clear whether the NFL would sign off on it, because the technology is outdated.
Schutt discontinued the Air Advantage in 2009, according to Glenn Beckmann, Schutt’s director of marketing communications. But the company continued to manufacture the model for a short period afterward to ensure a supply of parts for reconditioning and warranty claims.
Beckmann said he “can’t imagine” any Air Advantage models were manufactured after 2011, and the company does not have any in stock. Helmets are registered with an eight-character number stamped inside the product, similar to a VIN number for automobiles, that confirm its manufacture date.
“There was nothing wrong with the Air Advantage,” Beckmann said. “It had just outlived its life.”
Brown has tried out the new certified helmet and believes it protrudes and interferes with his vision as he tries to catch the football. He also argued that his helmet made him feel safe.
Rosenhaus reiterated that his client, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Steelers in March and promptly given a three-year, $50.125 million contract, had been working on the helmet issue for “months.”
Brown had reportedly threatened to retire if he was not allowed to wear his helmet.
“All the talk about retirement and everything else, that’s not a consideration right now,” Rosenhaus said. “He’s committed to the team, he’s committed to the season, and everyone can take solace in that. He’ll be playing this year and playing for the Raiders.”
Rosenhaus also said that Brown’s absence from the Raiders had everything to do with the extreme frostbite on his feet he suffered in a July cryotherapy mishap in France.
“It wasn’t his intention to leave the team for the period of time that he did; he’s always had a good line of communication with the club,” said Rosenhaus.
The Raiders have held 12 practices, with Brown participating in just one pre-practice walk-through on July 28. He was limited before leaving early on July 30, and he had not been with the team since that day.
“It’s a process,” Brown said. “We don’t make excuses. I’m here today just to get things on the up and up. I’m feeling a lot better. It’s been a process through all the adversity, but I’m still here standing, so it’s an opportunity for me to do what I desire to do.
“Feel a lot better, you know? Working towards 100 percent. Been a process with the feet. Any time you’ve got a lot of blisters, it’s hard to change directions, cut and run and do what I do naturally.”
Brown, who still appeared to be walking gingerly Tuesday, smiled when asked if there was a time frame for him to return to the practice field.
“I guess you’ve got to stay tuned,” he said.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden said he’s not sure whether Brown, who was a mainstay during the Raiders’ offseason program and put in extra work with quarterback Derek Carr, will play in any of the team’s three remaining exhibition games.
Asked, though, if Brown will be ready for the season opener on Sept. 9 against the Denver Broncos on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” Gruden had no doubt.
“Oh yeah,” Gruden said. “Yup. We’ll work him back in.
“Obviously, it’s great to have him back. We’ve had a pretty good understanding, in spite of what people think. … We’ve had a pretty good understanding of the foot injury. We know where he’s been. We know what he’s been through. We’re thrilled to have him back and, obviously, we think he’s a great player and we’re anxious to get the men together and get rolling.”
Count Carr among them.
“Can’t wait for him to suit up and be out there with us,” Carr said. “… Any time a teammate comes back, it always brings life to the team.
“We’ll be ready to go Week 1. We’ve got a lot of time until then. … Get some game-plan plays down, some routes, certain cuts he’ll run for us. The fact that he’s here is a good sign. It’s good for us.”
ESPN’s Kevin Seifert contributed to this report.
Cowboys fall to Bears for 3rd consecutive loss, 6-7 record on season
CHICAGO — Jerry Jones might not be in a position to keep Jason Garrett as Dallas Cowboys head coach anymore.
Thursday’s 31-24 loss to the Chicago Bears was the latest disappointment in a Cowboys’ season that has gone wrong but still has the potential to lead to a playoff appearance.
Jones has made only one in-season coaching change in his tenure as owner and general manager and, at times, Thursday’s game was reminiscent of Wade Phillips’ final game on Nov. 7, 2010, a 45-7 defeat to the Green Bay Packers.
The day after that loss Garrett was installed as interim head coach and has had the job ever since.
Thursday’s loss was the Cowboys’ third straight and as disheartening as any they have had because of what was on the line.
After the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Buffalo Bills, Jones said he would not make a coaching change and professed faith that Garrett was the right coach to change the team’s fortunes. Jones was envisioning the Cowboys running the table, winning the NFC East and becoming a threat to compete for a Super Bowl.
Given the performance Thursday, even Jones’ confidence has to be shaken with his team 6-7 with three games to play.
For the second straight game, the Cowboys’ offense opened with a first-possession touchdown. For the second straight game, things went downhill after that.
Like the loss to the Bills in which the defense allowed 26 straight points, they were scorched again, giving up 24 unanswered points to the Bears.
The Cowboys’ defense had a first-possession interception, its first takeaway in 263 snaps, but then gave up touchdowns on three of the next four possessions to close out the first half. The defense contributed mightily as well with three third-down penalties that kept Chicago’s touchdown drives alive.
The offense wasn’t much better. After opening with a season-long 17-play drive that covered 75 yards and ended on an Ezekiel Elliott touchdown run, the offense went six straight possessions without a score and gained just 57 yards.
Jones has remained more patient with Garrett than he has with any other coach. Chan Gailey was fired after making the playoffs in 1998 and ’99. Dave Campo was finally let go after three straight 5-11 finishes in 2002. Phillips made the playoffs in 2007 and ’09 but was doomed by a 1-7 start to the 2010 season.
Garrett is the second-winningest coach in Cowboys’ history to Tom Landry with an 83-66 record, but he has not gotten past the divisional round of the playoffs in three postseason appearances. He entered this season with a must-win mandate since he does not have a contract past this season.
A potential issue for Jones is who to make the interim coach even if he wanted to make the switch. In 2010, Garrett was the clear choice. In 2019, passing game coordinator Kris Richard, who calls the defense, and coordinator Rod Marinelli have presided over a group that has disappointed.
Despite entering Thursday with the top-ranked offense in terms of yards per game, with first-year coordinator Kellen Moore, the offense has bogged down in recent weeks.
If there is any optimistic bent to the Cowboys’ playoff chances, which might save Garrett’s job, it’s this: According to ESPN’s FPI, the loss dropped the Cowboys’ chances of making it to the postseason to just 70 percent. Had they won, their chances would have improved to 77%.
But is there any sense of confidence that the Cowboys can right all their wrongs before they play the Los Angeles Rams at AT&T Stadium on Dec. 15 even if Jones makes a change at head coach?
Patriots’ Tom Brady makes light of toe, elbow injuries
“That might be the first time my toe’s ever been on the injury report. You know us Patriots. We’re pretty diligent about listing everything, so I guess we have to make mention of my toe now as well,” Brady said with a laugh Thursday night in his weekly interview with Westwood One sports.
Of his elbow, he joked, “Isn’t there some HIPAA violation or something like that, when I start talking about all my injuries? I’m doing pretty good. At this time of the year, I’ll take it. I’ll take anything if I’m still able to go out there and feel like I can play my best. I’m feeling really good, really positive about this week. We have a really great challenge ahead of us.”
Brady and the Patriots (10-2) host the Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) on Sunday.
“It is going to be a very, very tough game. Hopefully we can go out there and play with the fire and energy we have, and go out there and have a great performance,” said Brady, who acknowledged that his voice was still recovering from Sunday night’s road loss to the Houston Texans.
With No. 3 quarterback Cody Kessler (illness) also limited in practice Thursday, rookie Jarrett Stidham was the only Patriots quarterback to practice in full. Brady, 42, had been a full participant in practice Wednesday.
One other issue for the Patriots to potentially resolve before kickoff is solidifying their kicker position. In an unusual situation, the team has practiced the past two days without a kicker on the roster.
Veteran Nick Folk, who kicked in three games for the Patriots before he was waived last week with a non-football injury designation (appendix), is a top candidate to fill the role once medically cleared. Kai Forbath, who replaced Folk in Sunday’s loss to the Texans and was released Monday, could also be re-signed.
Rams’ Todd Gurley on board with getting bigger workload
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — When Sean McVay was asked Wednesday if there was a reason behind running back Todd Gurley’s recent increase in carries, the Los Angeles Rams coach responded, “Me not being an idiot.”
A day later, Gurley didn’t disagree.
“He said it. I didn’t,” Gurley said Thursday, a small grin on his face. “That’s all I got to say.”
Throughout much of the Rams 7-5 season, McVay has been eager to rely on the passing game and hesitant to commit to the run.
The focal point of McVay’s offense the past two seasons, Gurley has yet to produce a signature game, the kind that earned him a four-year extension, with $45 million in guarantees, before last season.
However, recently, Gurley’s role has increased.
The Rams relied on the All-Pro back to grind out a Week 11 win over the Chicago Bears, as he tied his season high, rushing for 97 yards on a season-best 25 carries.
Then, in a Week 13 blowout over the Arizona Cardinals, he rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
In each of those games, Gurley had at least 100 scrimmage yards, a mark he reached in only one other instance this season, a Week 1 win over the Carolina Panthers.
“He’s done a nice job handling a bigger workload,” said McVay, whose 7-5 Rams have only an 18 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.
“It’s been fine,” said Gurley, when asked how he’s responded to the larger workload. “Obviously, what is it? Week 13, Week 14? Everyone’s kind of feeling the long season. Just got to do what you got to do to get your body right and your mind right for each Sunday.”
It was uncertain going into the season how Gurley would be utilized because of issues surrounding his left knee, which kept him sidelined for the final two games of the 2018 season.
But Gurley and the Rams have repeatedly said that his knee is fine, while McVay has continued to deny that Gurley has been on any sort of load management program this season.
“It has nothing to do with that,” McVay said. “It was really just, you’re just kind of working through the 2019 season — the best way to utilize all of our players and figuring out what our identity is.”
When asked if he would like to continue with the increased amount of carries through final four games, Gurley said, “I mean it doesn’t matter. … Team sport, only one person can get the ball.”
In 11 games this season, Gurley has averaged 58 yards on 14 carries, down from the 89 yards on 18 carries that he averaged in 2018.
After producing back-to-back seasons rushing for more than 1,200 yards, Gurley has rushed for 642 yards on 154 carries.
He has yet to rush for 100 yards in a game, after doing it six times last season.
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