The NFL season is upon us but the biggest story of the opening week was about someone who did not even play.
Antonio Brown could go down as one of the greatest receivers in the history of the NFL. His career has been outstanding. In his eight seasons, he has caught more passes and collected more receiving yards than anyone. So obviously he is a highly sought after commodity.
But it is Brown’s off-the-field antics which have been making headlines since the end of last season.
AB, as he brands himself, has always been outspoken and in the 2018 off-season, threatened a reporter who was writing a story about him.
At Pittsburgh, he had a major falling out with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. So, after he refused to practice, it came as no surprise when the Steelers traded him to Oakland in March.
Brown crowed about how excited he was, talked up the Raiders’ “brave” recruiting policy and appeared happy. All seemed well until he stepped off the hot air balloon – yes, hot air balloon – in which he arrived at training camp. With the NFL Hard Knocks TV documentary crew covering the Raiders’ pre-season, it all began to unravel.
Brown reported with frostbite on the soles of his feet from attempted cryotherapy. When his feet healed, he refused to play in a new helmet – after older models were banned for safety reasons. Brown went to court over the matter and lost.
It all came to a head last week when Raiders general manager Mike Mayock was reportedly called a “cracker” by Brown. Brown was fined – again – suspended and then later released by the team.
Of course Brown is a huge talent, so was immediately picked up by the New England Patriots. They had reportedly offered the Steelers a first-round draft pick in a proposed trade for AB in March. Now they’ve got him for free – another great move by Pats head coach/general manager Bill Belichick. New England, in fairness, seems a better fit for Brown. The organisation has plenty of experience of getting the best out of players who have had trouble staying in line, such as Randy Moss and Josh Gordon.
What all this really reveals is the underlying problems in the Raiders organisation. The Raiders tempted Jon Gruden out of his TV analyst’s chair two years ago to be their head coach and teamed him up with another former TV commentator – Mike Mayock – as general manager.
Their strategy has included taking big risks such as trading superstars Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper while signing Isiah Crowell and Richie Incognito – both players with questionable pasts. Creating a team of cast-offs might seem a good concept for a Hollywood script but is it the way to run such a storied franchise?
The Raiders had not yet played when this was written and they did have a good pre-season. However, there is a whiff of a disaster in the making. The potential to blow up at the first sign of adversity.
As usual after week one, half the teams’ fanbases are happy, and the other half are looking for solace. Apart from Lions and Cardinals fans, who are lamenting their inability to win a game in five quarters, but at least they didn’t lose.
In that tied game, the Cards’ No 1 overall pick Kyler Murray made his NFL debut at QB and, despite a slow start, finished with 308 yards and two touchdowns. New coach Kliff Kingsbury showed he isn’t afraid to air it out, with 54 attempted passes.
The LA Rams showed no hangover from their Super Bowl defeat by the Patriots by overcoming a stubborn Carolina Panthers 30-27. The Rams were always just out of reach of the Panthers, who never looked like they could win.
New England Patriots also picked up where they left off as they turned the screw on Pittsburgh in a 33-3 win. The Steelers struggled to get anything going on offense while the Patriots were calm and orderly.
The Browns, having been billed as one of the teams to watch, suffered a humbling 43-14 defeat by Tennessee. Much-vaunted QB Baker Mayfield & Co will need to improve vastly. The Miami Dolphins fans will be hurting more than most after giving up 59 points to the Baltimore offense, while the Chiefs looked as good as last year, putting 40 points on the usually solid Jacksonville defense. The big rivalry game between New York Giants and Dallas saw Dak Prescott lead the Cowboys to a 37-17 victory.