Antonio Brown continues to be distraction with Raiders

Oakland Raiders

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown took to the field and participated in stretches, but he’s still not practicing with the team.

As the Hard Knocks cameras roll, Oakland Raiders superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown remains unwilling to practice with an unfamiliar helmet. At first, there was optimism that Brown would finally take the field on Tuesday, as the NFL Network’s MJ Acosta reported that he would finally be practicing with the team.

But instead of remaining on the field, Brown headed back into the weight room when the helmets came on. ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez shot footage of Brown stretching without a helmet, and NBC Sports Bay Area’s Scott Bair has footage of Brown heading back inside once Raiders players strapped on their helmets.

Recent comments from Raiders GM Mike Mayock suggest that the team is growing impatient with Brown, though head coach Jon Gruden has been more supportive, at least publicly.

Although the saga surrounding Brown has become a distraction for the Raiders, there’s still no reason for the team to lose their cool. With questions on defense and solid depth at the wide receiver position thanks to fellow offseason acquisitions Tyrell Williams, JJ Nelson, and Ryan Grant, the Raiders have other worries.

Brown’s future is uncertain, since he did threaten retiring if the NFL doesn’t allow him to use his preferred helmet. But few have actually taken those threats seriously, since Brown would be forfeiting a hefty amount of guaranteed money by retiring. A reasonable middle ground should be found, but, until then, fans will continue to be puzzled as to why Brown’s current helmet is so important to him that he’d be willing to end his career.

Meanwhile, other fans are probably just watching with interest, perhaps more cynically wondering if this is all just a grand storyline for Mayock, Gruden, and Brown to soak up on Hard Knocks, which has undoubtedly enjoyed following the Raiders offseason drama thus far.

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Few expect the Raiders to be competitive in a division that includes the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers, and Brown is seen as the difference-maker who could lead Oakland to an unlikely winning season. If he does somehow retire after all of this, the Raiders would get nothing for the mid-round picks they sent to the Pittsburgh Steelers but would probably get to go back to the drawing board next offseason with even more cash to spend.

The whole helmet business is confusing and probably a distraction to Brown’s teammates, coaches, and the player himself, but the Raiders would be wise to stay calm and use this time to focus on Derek Carr’s other weapons as he heads into a career-defining season at quarterback.

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