Antonio Brown was a no-show at Raiders practice Sunday, after recent developments offered tentative hope that his helmet saga was nearing a satisfying conclusion. Raiders general manager Mike Mayock expressed the team’s frustrations and eagerness to move on in a statement Sunday afternoon, but unless or until the team is willing to use the nuclear option, the world is stuck waiting for this madness to resolve itself. It came no closer to resolution Monday night when Brown filed a second grievance against the NFL:
Brown tried to resolve the issue last week by tracking down a newer version of his preferred helmet, the sale of which was discontinued years ago. The theory there was that because the preferred helmet design had been disallowed by age alone, without testing, the newer model might sail through and be approved for use. The NFL determined that Brown’s newer, nine-year-old helmet would need testing before it could be approved and used; when it was sent off for testing, it reportedly failed on safety criteria, leaving Brown back at square one. Hence his absence from practice over the weekend.
Via his first grievance, filed earlier this month, Brown sought an exception in order to continue wearing his preferred 12-year-old Schutt Air Advantage. When that failed, Brown resorted to the social media search for a newer model. Now that that, too, has failed, Brown’s new grievance essentially demands a one-year grace period to continue wearing his unapproved helmet for this upcoming season. His argument is that the NFL hadn’t expressly banned or tested his helmet prior to this summer, a timeline that essentially denied him the grace period given to other players used to wearing helmets that are no longer allowed. You’d think an equipment conflict could never reach this level of complexity, but of course this is a league that has made the act of catching a football into an exploration of quantum superpositions.
This second grievance is just the latest development in an impasse that seems once again like it could extend indefinitely and keep Brown off the field during at least part of the regular season. You just hate to think of what that kind of situation could do to head coach Jon Gruden’s complexion.