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Antonio Brown Adds To Wildest Offseason Saga By Protesting NFL's Helmet Rule Change

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- As you may or may not know, the NFL made some changes to the helmets that are deemed suitable for use in games. It was introduced last year, with players using the soon-to-be-banned models allowed to continue wearing them for one last season.

That buffer period allowed players -- notably, Tom Brady -- ample time to get used to a new helmet. In Brady's case, he tried out the new helmet model for part of the year before ultimately going back to the helmet model he had worn for his entire career. This year though, without that option, Brady is back to wearing the modern helmet, which (at least theoretically) offers more protection than the ancient model he had worn since college.

Here's Brady on Thursday night. See?

Tom Brady
Tom Brady (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Here's the major and obvious difference in build and shape and style and facemask from Brady's old helmet to his new helmet. See?

Tom Brady
Tom Brady's new helmet (L), Tom Brady's old helmet (R) (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)


Brady clearly didn't love it last year, but rules are rules, and the Patriots always follow the rules, so there you go. Simple enough.

(The split image shows Brady's new helmet from 2018. The 2019 photo -- the first photo -- shows a different facemask. He's adapting. See?!)

Enter Antonio Brown and the Oakland Raiders. As we've learned in recent days, the All-Pro wide receiver has been missing from the practice fields in his first year with the Raiders after he suffered frostbite on his feet after going in a cryotherapy chamber in France without wearing any socks.


The foot thing, though, is just one reason for Brown's continued absence, as we've learned on Friday. Turns out, Brown's helmet was also one of the models that was forced into obsolescence by the league, and apparently Brown is not happy about it. At all.

Adam Schefter got the ball rolling on this story, by reporting that Brown has filed a grievance against the league about his helmet and also reporting that Brown's displeasure with having to wear a new helmet model is a bigger reason for his absence than the feet problem.

Surely, that cannot be true. Right? Not in real life, anyway.

Well, NFL Network's Mike Silver had a whole lot more detail on the situation. It's just as difficult to believe.

Hit it, Mike. (It's worth reading all the way through, but if you need the digest, we'll put it at the end.)

Man. Antonio Brown loves his football helmet.

The short version of that thread is that Brown is so angry about having to wear a new helmet model that he "stormed out" of the Raiders' facility during OTAs, only to later try to sneak his old helmet onto the field with a bootleg Raiders paint job on it. He tried to sneak that contraband helmet onto the practice field on more than one occasion, too.

The Raiders, out of respect for the rules but really out of fear of punishment from the league, have prohibited from using the old helmet. And as a result, it seems as though Brown is incredibly upset with the Raiders, issuing some of the blame for the situation to his new team.


(You may remember that Brown's ugly divorce with the Steelers was pushed along after he missed practices and meetings during the days leading up to Pittsburgh's must-win game in Week 17. It led to a bizarre ending for Brown in Pittsbrugh, before he was ultimately moved to Oakland.)

Also in there was Brown's apparent complaint that "QBs such as Brady and Rodgers were not being subjected to the same scrutiny."

As previously noted, Brady's rolled with the changes and has worn the new helmet this year. Rodgers has too. So. There's that.

Now, if you've followed this far, thank you. But I need to get the attention of everyone else who was just scanning quickly.


All of this culminated in one of the greatest tweets of Adam Schefter's life:


Brown might retire from football instead of just ... wearing a different helmet.

Now, you can also note this: There are many helmets to choose from! A bevy of helmets, if you will. A smorgasbord of sorts.

So, why doesn't Brown want to give those other helmets a shot? Well, it seems like the reason is because the first one he tried did not suit him well. So if the first one is bad, all of them are bad, and heck it might just be time to retire.

This is the best story of all time.

Clearly, Brown is upset. The Raiders don't seem to really know when or if he'll return to work. Sounds very dramatic. If only there were a behind-the-scenes, all-access reality show filming the Raiders operation as we speak. That would be really cool. I'd definitely watch that program. If were to theoretically exist.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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