The show Antonio Brown put on in running routes and catching passes from Derek Carr on the State Farm Stadium grass before the Oakland Raiders‘ 33-26 preseason defeat of the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night has coach Jon Gruden hopeful.
As in, Gruden hopes Brown practices with the Raiders before the team breaks camp in Napa, California, on Monday.
“I’m not going to say anything else, but I’m very optimistic after what I saw tonight,” Gruden said after the game, in which Oakland built a 26-0 lead, with its defensive starters playing four series against No. 1 draft pick Kyler Murray.
“Hell yeah, it was encouraging. It was great to have him back,” Gruden added of Brown. “You know, it’s been a strange, strange couple weeks, with frostbite and the helmet grievance. Can’t say that that’s common, at least in my history in this league. But we’ve weathered the storm.”
Brown had been away from the team for two weeks after starting camp on the non-football injury list before participating in one pre-practice walkthrough July 28, being limited July 30 and then leaving the field early.
Carr also said he was encouraged.
“It was kind of right where we left off,” Carr said. “He’s such a good player, and we’ve spent so much time together that I knew when he came back it’d be just like he never left. He came in. You see him chatting it up with everybody on the sideline. He’s our teammate. We love him. That’s our brother and we’re just happy that he’s here so we can put our arms around him and head forward.”
Brown was away seeking treatment on the soles of his feet, which he injured in a cryotherapy mishap in France early last month. He told ESPN’s Lisa Salters the injury occurred because he wore only socks. Therapy included laser treatments, said Brown’s agent Drew Rosenhaus, who added that the injury was the main reason Brown was absent from camp and not so much his grievance against the NFL as Brown sought to be able wear his 10-year-old Schutt Air Advantage helmet, the only helmet he has worn in his professional career.
Brown lost the grievance Monday and returned to Napa on Tuesday.
Gruden would not say what helmet Brown was wearing during warm-ups.
“I’m not talking about it anymore,” Gruden said. “It was a legal, certified helmet, you know? Somebody approved it, or he wouldn’t have worn it.
“It’s great to see him out there with his teammates. He appears to be in great spirits and he appears like he’s ready to get going here, so that’s Antonio Brown. We’re excited about him. I’m excited about him. I could care less what anybody else says, I’m excited.”
The Raiders are scheduled to hold practice in Napa on Saturday and Sunday before breaking camp Monday, then “host” the Green Bay Packers in their penultimate preseason game at Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Thursday.