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 newer.
Earlier Tuesday, Brown put out a post on social media — with incentive, of course — 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Reconditioners Association (NAERA), it is not clear whether the NFL would sign off on it, because the technology is outdated.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 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, who added that legal issues could potentially arise from Brown’s injuries.
The Raiders have held 12 practices, with Brown participating in just one pre-practice walkthrough 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. Anytime 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 timeframe for him to return to the practice field.
“I guess you’ve got to stay tuned,” he said.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden was not sure if Brown, who was a mainstay during the Raiders offseason program and put in extra work with quarterback Derek Carr, would play in any of the team’s three remaining exhibition games.
Asked, though, if Brown would 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. “… Anytime 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 gameplan 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.
Sources — Colts won’t recoup money from Luck
Despite the fact that they could have recouped $24.8 million from their former quarterback, the Indianapolis Colts have reached a financial settlement with Andrew Luck and will not take back any of the money they are owed, league sources tell ESPN.
The Colts essentially are telling Luck to keep it all, even though it is within their rights to reclaim the money.
The settlement was reached late last week, according to a source familiar with the talks.
Luck could have owed the Colts $12.8 million as a pro-rated portion of the $32 million signing bonus the Colts gave him when he signed his five-year extension in 2016, and another $12 million in roster bonuses he was paid in March. But Indianapolis waived its right to recoup the money and is allowing Luck to keep it all, after the poundings he’s taken and all he’s given to the franchise. It is, in an official way, his parting gift.
Shortly after the news of Luck’s retirement broke Saturday night, Colts owner Jim Irsay estimated Luck might be losing out on a half-billion dollars in potential NFL wages by retiring now.
“It’s a tough thing, look it, he’s leaving $450 million on the table potentially,” Irsay said. “I mean, a half a billion dollars, and he’s saying, ‘You know what, I want to have my integrity. I have to be able to look (wide receiver) T.Y. (Hilton) in the eye, look my teammates, look coach, look (GM) Chris (Ballard) and say, I’m all in,’ and he just didn’t feel he could do that.”
Los Angeles Rams tackle Andrew Whitworth trying to keep his career alive at nearly 8,000 feet
WOLCOTT, Colo. — Daddy is sweating and it’s hot, but Andrew Whitworth‘s boys don’t notice. It’s time for a ride, in what’s become an annual offseason tradition, and it’s time for dad to provide the push.
Whitworth removes a couple of bags of golf clubs from the end of the golf cart in an effort to lighten the load, as sweat continuously drops from his graying goatee. The Los Angeles Rams’ 37-year-old left tackle pauses, trying to gather his breath, then leans over and finds his grip.
His 7-year-old son, Michael, yells from the passenger’s seat, “We’re ready!” and the 6-foot-7, 330-pound Whitworth begins to push. The cart inches forward, and 8-year-old son Drew hollers from the driver’s side, “What a ride!”
It’s the last Monday in June. Four days into the Whitworth family’s retreat to their offseason home high in the mountains of Colorado. Whitworth’s wife, Melissa, and two daughters remain in their hometown in Louisiana for a few extra days, as Whitworth takes on the challenge of starting his offseason workout regimen with Michael and Drew in tow. His boys are old enough to shadow dad as he plows through his grueling workout routine, but young enough to still get a kick out of the wild physical feats that he can pull off.
As Whitworth pushes the 900-pound golf cart, carrying his two 50-plus-pound kids across the driveway, his calf muscles flex and veins begin to pop. After exhausting his strength, Whitworth retreats to the shade inside his three-car garage, which has been partially converted into a home gym.
“Want to go again?” Drew hollers, before he puts the cart in reverse.
With Whitworth, who went through a 30-minute strength circuit prior to the push, trying to catch his breath in the thin mountain air, this portion of the day’s workout is over. Drew and Michael won’t get another free ride.
It’s Day 1 of Whitworth’s offseason program, one he must ease into at an altitude well more than a mile high — where your heart rate races even at a standstill, a satisfying breath is challenging to find, and the air is so dry that lip balm must remain a fixture in your pocket.
“I feel pretty good,” Whitworth says through a heavy breath, nearly 10 minutes after the great golf cart push. “Most of the time after these workouts, you feel pretty alive just because of the altitude.”
Training at altitude forces muscles to work harder due to the lack of oxygen in the air. It can also produce more red blood cells. It’s yet another way Whitworth is trying to extend his NFL career.
The start of Whitworth’s 14th NFL training camp remains five weeks away. The four-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro has gone to great lengths to find new ways to motivate his mind and move his body. Over the span of his career, his workouts have ranged from prototypical Olympic weightlifting to carrying stones up the mountainside. Some of his workouts seem outside the box, if not unprecedented for an NFL player. But for all the crazy, as he describes it, it continues to pay off.
“I almost, in some ways, feel better now than I ever did,” Whitworth says. “I think I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been in.”
But at age 37, Whitworth is the oldest lineman in the NFL, and how much longer he can hold the title remains the biggest question.
“I still feel really good,” he says, though he acknowledges there are some bumps and bruises from football — swollen ankles and knees, battered hip labrums — that will never quite feel the same. “If I feel like I can’t go out and perform the way that I think I should be, then I just won’t be able to do it.”
So onward Whitworth goes into another Colorado summer, training to keep his mind sharp, his body energized and his career alive at 7,880 feet.
Inside the weight room at West Monroe High School in West Monroe, Louisiana, a wall features a distinguished list of the top weight lifters to pass through the Rebels’ powerhouse program.
The top spot in any category — bench, squat and power clean — is a proud accomplishment. But, according to Casey Sanders, West Monroe’s strength coach for the last 30 years, there’s one category that means the most.
“In the history of West Monroe,” Sanders says, “Normally our best power cleaners are our best football players. [Players] kind of know that.”
Whitworth set the standard when he cleaned 390 pounds before his senior season. For good measure, he set the record in the bench press, too, when he pressed 350 pounds. But it was the power clean mark that stood for 13 years until future Alabama and Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Cam Robinson beat it by 10 pounds.
Whitworth, however, still left a lasting legacy. “His work ethic was great,” Sanders says. “He just loved football and he loved training … that’s one of the biggest keys that he had going for him.”
Whitorth says Sanders became the biggest factor in his success. “He was the baseline and the foundation,” he says, and Whitworth took that knowledge with him to LSU, then on to Cincinnati, after the Bengals selected him in the second round of the 2006 draft.
Through 11 seasons with the Bengals, Whitworth developed an annual routine that former Bengals strength coach Chip Morton fondly looks back on. Whitworth would walk into Morton’s office, fold into a chair and rest his hands on his knees as a mischievous grin grew across his face.
“I knew what was coming,” Morton says through laughter, as he launches into a detailed explanation of Whitworth’s postseason routine.
“He would come in and sit down and say, ‘Okay, it’s that time of the year, what are we going to do?’ ” Morton says. “We would just discuss things and I would give him leads and ideas and he would just dive in and pursue it.”
After his five-year career at LSU, Whitworth arrived in Cincinnati well-versed in weightlifting, and really anything that required brute strength.
“I think he’d tell ya,” Morton says, “when he came to us, he was a certified meathead.”
But together with Morton, Whitworth diversified his strength.
One offseason, he was interested in becoming more fluid in his movements, so he took up yoga. At another point, he wanted to find a low-impact cardio solution, so Morton suggested Whitworth purchase a 95-pound chain to haul across the field. Days later, Whitworth showed up with his new purchase on display.
Rams LT Andrew Whitworth takes his training to the next level at his offseason home in Colorado. Go inside Whitworth’s workouts, and his mindset, as he prepares for his 14th season in the NFL. Video by Lindsey Thiry
“It’s one thing to say it, or to understand the concept of taking care of your body or getting into training,” Morton says. “It’s another thing to commit to it, and invest your own personal capital into it and your own personal time and all that. That’s what set Andrew apart.”
Whitworth trained in Muay Thai fighting, MMA and CrossFit. He also took private training in Jiu Jitsu. “I had to call in someone big enough to fight him,” says Jon Stutzman, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, who trains at a gym in Ohio, but stood no match for the amateur Whitworth. “He was gargantuan.”
As Whitworth grew older, and inspired by Morton, he became a big fan of weighted carries — simply walking with heavy weights. The exercises increased his stamina, and became an alternative to cardiovascular fitness that wouldn’t require as much running and pounding on his body.
“I think it was as much to save his body and find different ways to train his body to prolong things and not just be a slave to barbell training only,” Morton says.
“Drew, keep your arms straight — your left arm, keep it straight the whole time,” Whitworth says, as he lines up next to his boys at the driving range. Drew takes his dad’s advice, then hits a clean shot, straight ahead. “Yessir, real clean ball, dude.”
Whitworth pulls his own customized clubs — everything two inches longer — out of the bag. After he places a few chip shots on the green, he pulls out his driver.
“I can hit it a long way,” he says, as his stoic face hints at a grin. “But it’s not controlled.”
A loud whoosh sends a drive 315 yards from the tee.
“Wow!” Michael says. “It’s going to be really hard to beat that.”
For Whitworth, even while downing sliders with his kids at the snack shack, golf counts as workout. On any given day in Colorado, he will play 18 to 36 holes after his morning workout.
“It gives me an opportunity to reset mentally and physically to get out and sweat and just move the body and keep things working the way they should,” Whitworth says. “It just a great balance to being an athlete to play golf and to have an opportunity to have something else to work at that’s totally just not anything like football.”
It also provides time to spend with his family. Michael and Drew have taken to it, and they’re days away from competing in a father-son tournament. Whitworth’s wife, Melissa, his daughters and their long-time family nanny, Krista Howard, will play in a family scramble.
But on this day, it’s just the boys. And Whitworth, appearing slightly fatigued, plays coach, chauffeur and referee as things get chippy from hole to hole.
“Great job, Mike, keeping that arm out in front of you,” Whitworth hollers from the cart path to the random spot where he told the boys to tee off. “There you go! Good job, buddy!”
After playing nine holes, more or less, in no particular order but rather to avoid any other patrons, Whitworth navigates a return to the house, parks the cart and makes his way to sit on the outdoor couch on the back deck.
He stares out at an expansive view of the Rocky Mountain range. Steamboat Springs is far in the distance. He has something of a thousand-mile stare, as he ponders his football mortality. He’s put his mind and body through pain, whether it be in an offseason workout or playing last season through two sprained ankles. He admits he’s a glutton for punishment when it comes to training so that he can enjoy other life moments without feeling an ounce of guilt.
Whitworth, who is in the final season of a three-year, $36 million contract, talks through all the reasons why he’ll continue to play — and why he never actually considered retiring last season despite the overwhelming assumption — both inside and outside of his circle — that he would.
There’s the pursuit of a return trip to the Super Bowl and the chance to build an organization that not long ago was mired in mediocrity into a three-time division winner. There’s also the years of hard work that have kept his body moving, an investment he’s not ready to forfeit.
“It’s going to come down to being able to still play at a level that … if I feel like I can’t go out and perform the way that I think I should be, then I just won’t be able to do it,” Whitworth says. “I’m not going to go out there and struggle and be okay with it.
“So if I don’t feel like I can go out there and play, then that’s when it’s going to be done for me.”
Source — Pack to cut 2017 2nd-round pick Jones
Jones, the 61st overall pick in the 2017 draft, has been in and out of the lineup during his two years in Green Bay, starting 12 games over two years. He skipped the Packers’ voluntary offseason workouts this year, unhappy with his role on the team.
The Packers opened last season with former undrafted rookie Kentrell Brice and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety. Even after Clinton-Dix was traded midway through last season, Jones was bypassed for a starting job when the Packers moved Tramon Williams from cornerback to safety. It wasn’t until after Brice sustained an ankle injury in Week 10 that Jones finally got his first start of the season in Week 11.
Jones was one of just three Packers rookies to appear in every game during the 2017 season, starting in seven of them. He posted 71 tackles with two sacks plus an interception and seven pass breakups. In his first career start (Week 3 of 2017 against the Bengals), Jones posted a career-high 11 tackles (10 solo) and became the first rookie defensive back in team history to record two sacks in a game.
ESPN’s Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.
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