When do you think the last time Antonio Brown was scared was? Like, when was the last time Antonio Brown realized he wasn’t in control anymore?
It wasn’t in Pittsburgh. It wasn’t this offseason. It wasn’t at training camp. But Thursday night? I’d bet serious coin that Brown had a nervous thought cross his mind (probably thanks in part to agent Drew Rosenhaus): is this it?
Did I just cost myself $30 million in guarantees? Did I cost myself a chance at breaking receiving records? Did I throw away everything I’ve worked so hard for?
As a man who has gotten everything he has wanted for upwards of the last 24 months, I genuinely believe that everything that transpired on Wednesday and Thursday sowed seeds of doubt and maybe even fear in the mind of Antonio Brown.
And if you’re the Oakland Raiders? Mission accomplished.
As the Raiders versus Brown saga has dragged on over the past few months, it seemed like nothing was out of the realm of possibilities.
Frostbitten feet from a cryotherapy chamber in Europe? Check.
Lawsuit with the league over a helmet deemed unsafe and too old? Check (and then check again).
Fines for missing practices and skipping walkthroughs and then posting the letter on Instagram with a passive-aggressive message for the team? Check.
Shouting match with general manager Mike Mayock that allegedly involved threats of physical assault, derogatory language and needing to be physically restrained (by Vontaze Burfict no less)? Check.
Twitter rumors of suspensions, fines, and possible release? Check, check and check.
Ah, the life of an Oakland Raiders fan.
As for the takes? Oh, there have been takes.
It depends on who you ask, and yet, regardless of all of this, it seems like Friday morning’s announcement by head coach Jon Gruden that Brown would not be suspended has brought an end to things — at least for a few hours.
And, truthfully, if you ask me, I think the Raiders won this round. Here’s why…
When the Raiders traded for and extended Brown, they wed themselves to this guy for the next three years — and they needed him, to be honest. When the feet thing happened, you could say it was a fluke. When the helmet thing happened, you could say it was “Antonio Brown being Antonio Brown” — it’s weird, but it’s not criminal, so meh.
But when he starts missing practices and walkthroughs on top of all that? It was clear that Brown was testing where the line was. He wanted to know how much he could get away with, and that question was quickly answered.
The first day he disappeared, Mayock gathered some reporters around him for an impromptu press conference and he publicly called Brown out with a simple question: are you all in, or are you all out”? The next day, Brown was back at work.
Then he missed a walkthrough before a preseason game — which is crazier when you realize he had flown all the way to Canada to be with the team at the game AND that this walkthrough was likely in the hotel he was staying at! Result? A hefty fine.
The message Brown received was crystal clear: we’re not having any of this. And I freaking loved it. Again: the Raiders are hoping this guy is going to be in the building for at least the next three years, and if the end of his time with the Steelers said anything, it was that nobody ever showed him where the line was. Mayock wasn’t going to make the same mistake.
Brown wasn’t happy, of course, and he went ballistic. Remember: this was a guy who had essentially never been disciplined(!) because no one had ever had the leverage to make him pay. Except this time he had made a miscalculation because the Raiders really did have the leverage.
They could suspend him — costing him games (read: stats) and money. They could release him (costing him $30 million in guarantees, which is exponentially higher than the number he’d get on the market after all this). And so while the Raiders definitely need Brown, he quickly realized how much he needed the Raiders too. His fate was no longer in his hands.
As a result, he showed up Friday morning with a heartfelt apology — one that was accepted by his teammates. I’m sure it was humbling, maybe even humiliating — all for a guy who hasn’t felt those things in a long, long time.
And in the end, everyone — I think — wins.
The Raiders will play their season opener with arguably the best receiver in football. And better yet, he’s a guy who now knows who has all the power — and where the lines are. If everything that the Raiders went through in the past 48 hours makes the next six months — let alone three years — more tolerable, then it was worth it a million times.
And if not? Well, he’ll be out $30 million and the Raiders will be rid of their (albeit incredibly important) headache.
Nobody knows what the future holds here, but the present looks different than it did a week ago. For now, the Raiders (I’m guessing) have a smile on their face behind closed doors. They showed a hard front, they showed they won’t be pushed around and they got their best player back.
Now, whether there’s another Round 2 — or, better yet, when Round 2 will be? That’s another question.
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