Christopher Bumbaca, USA TODAY
Published 11:59 a.m. ET Sept. 7, 2019 | Updated 1:19 p.m. ET Sept. 7, 2019CLOSE
SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Jones reacts to the news that the Oakland Raiders have cut Antonio Brown after a tumultuous couple of months with the team.
USA TODAYThe saga entered the realm of near disbelief Saturday morning.Less than a year after dysfunction opened the window to force himself out of an untenable situation with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Antonio Brown is gone from the Oakland Raiders before even taking the field in a real game. With the Raiders opening their season against Denver Monday night, the team announced on Twitter around noon ET Saturday they had released the controversial wide receiver.Here is a recap of the incidents that led Brown and the organization to this juncture. 1. The tradeBrown’s final season in Pittsburgh was not a pleasant one. During Week 17, he went radio silent and did not play in the team’s final game. He met with team owner Art Rooney II in February before deciding it was time to move on from the Steelers. Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden saw an opportunity to immediately improve their roster and give quarterback Derek Carr a marquee weapon in the passing game. Oakland shipped a third- and fifth-round draft pick to Pittsburgh and got its man. To facilitate the deal, Brown signed a three-year, $50.1 million contract (with a maximum value of $54.1 million) with $30.1 million guaranteed. “I’m here to elevate everything around me,” Brown said during his introductory news conference. “I’m here to just be a surge of energy, of positivity, and good force. A great teammate and to bring out the best of everyone around me (because) we all know it’s not just about me.” 2. The feetAfter a relatively quiet summer, Brown rode a hot air balloon to make a grand entrance at the first day of training camp and lightly participated. But then Brown’s time on the field become limited, and after speculation, he confirmed on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” that he was dealing with frostbitten feet that were damaged in a cryotherapy machine while he vacationed in Paris. CLOSE
The move comes just hours after Antonio Brown took to Instagram and asked the Oakland Raiders to release him.
USA TODAY3. The helmet Let the airing of the grievances begin. A month ago, with training camp on the horizon, Brown filed a grievance against the NFL to wear the same helmet model — a Schutt Air Advantage — he’d worn his entire career. The league and NFLPA had banned the model, along with several others, to improve player safety. He lost that battle and it seemed as if Brown would rejoin the team. But the 31-year-old filed a second grievance days later in an attempt to take advantage of a loophole. That grievance was also denied. Brown maintained he felt like he was “the enemy of the state.” In between all of this, Brown had been sued for more than $38,000 by celebrity chef Stefano Tedeschi for not paying a bill from Pro Bowl weekend in Orlando, Florida, last year. Brown eventually rejoined the team, before the real fireworks began. 4. The fineAll that missed time had to have consequences. For Brown, the result was a fine worth almost $54,000. Brown did not take kindly to that type of enforcement. He took to Instagram and posted the fine letter with the caption “WHEN YOUR OWN TEAM WANT TO HATE BUT THERE’S NO STOPPING ME NOW DEVIL IS A LIE. EVERYONE GOT TO PAY THIS YEAR SO WE CLEAR.”Antonio Brown posts his displeasure with fines from #Raiderspic.twitter.com/0OMhdwFu7K— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) September 4, 2019What followed was a verbal altercation with Mayock that led to the team planning to suspend him for the season opener.Early Friday, Brown’s agent Drew Rosenhaus was confident all involved parties could get back on the same page. And the team reversed course. Later Friday, Gruden surprisingly said Brown would play against the Broncos. 5. The video Just hours after the storm had calmed, Brown posted a video to Instagram and YouTube that appears to show a private phone conversation between him and someone who sounds like Gruden (USA TODAY Sports has not confirmed the voice was Gruden’s). “Let me ask you this, do you want to be a Raider or not?” the voice, referred to as “Coach,” says.”Man I’ve been trying to be a Raider since Day One,” Brown replies. “I’ve been (expletive) working my ass off harder than anyone. I don’t know why it’s a question of me being a Raider. It’s like: Do you guys want me to be a Raider?”The other party responds: “Please stop this (expletive) and just play football. How hard is that? You’re a great football player. Just play football.” “I’m more than just a football player, man,” Brown replies. “I’m a real person. It ain’t about the football, I know how to do that, I show you guys on the daily.”This is my life. Ain’t no more games.” Additionally, Brown could potentially face legal ramifications if he did not have permission to record the conversation because California is a two-party consent state. 6. The release? As the East Coast awoke Saturday, Brown said on Instagram he was asking the Raiders for his release. The $30 million guaranteed salary in Brown’s contract had been voided after the team fined him for conduct detrimental to the team, and the two parties are once again discussing his release, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity because that person was not authorized to speak for the team.That release became reality a little while later.For those asking: Antonio Brown is eligible to sign with another team as soon as 4:01 PM EST today.But, no, he would *not* be eligible to play for another team that has a game tomorrow. By Week 2, yes.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 7, 2019AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext Slide
Christopher Bumbaca, USA TODAY