Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown has been off the field for a couple of reasons, with one being injuries in his feet due to frostbite, and the other being a helmet issue with the NFL.
Brown has worn the same Schutt helmet throughout the course of his entire nine-year career, but that helmet is no longer certified by NOCSAE — the National Operating Committee for Standards and Athletic Equipment.
The NFL has forced Brown to switch to one of the newer, approved helmets, but he is unwilling to do that so he filed a grievance to the helmet to get his helmet approved, threatening to retire if that didn’t happen.
It appears the arbitrator has made a decision as Mike Jones of USA Today is reporting that they ruled against Brown and he will not be able to use his old helmet:
According to to two sources, the arbitrator has ruled against Antonio Brown in his grievance to wear the old helmet.
— Mike Jones (@ByMikeJones) August 12, 2019
This is obviously not ideal for the Raiders, who traded for Brown this past offseason and gave him a contract extension to be the new face of the franchise. Raiders head coach Jon Gruden came out in support of Brown after Saturday night’s preseason game, saying they will back him regardless of what decision he makes.
If Brown were to retire then he would be giving up all of the remaining three years and around $50 million on his contract, so it is hard to see him walking away in the prime of his career because of a helmet.
He took to social media to essentially let Raider Nation know that he plans on playing this season:
"While I disagree with the arbitrator's decision, I'm working on getting back to full health and looking forward to rejoining my teammates on the field. I'm excited about this season appreciate all the concerns about my feet 🦶!” #AlwaysAFight #Represent #itsbiggerthanme
— AB (@AB84) August 12, 2019
This is a serious matter for Brown though, so hopefully he, the Raiders, the league and the helmet company to work together to figure out a solution and Brown can be on the field when Oakland hosts the Denver Broncos in Week 1 of the regular season on Sept. 9.